The End of Masks

By Cyrus Sarfaty

It’s the end of March break, and with it comes the end of two full years of mask-wearing, restrictions, and Covid anxiety at UCC. Or so they say. It’s tough to form an opinion about this decision, as it may be the boldest move the school has made throughout the pandemic. Throughout this school year, we’ve already transitioned significantly toward a maskless school. In countless extracurriculars and school events, it’s tricky to wear one. In music class, it’s not uncommon to go the entire period uncovered, and in most sports, wearing a mask will only slow you down. For most of the student body, this change isn’t very meaningful, as it closely mirrors current life. It’s as if the entire day is lunchtime, and it seems to be more of a psychological move than a physical one.

If only we could just chill without our masks on and Covid would be too scared to come near us. But that doesn’t seem too likely. Only 12.8% of male Ontario 12-to-17-year-olds have received their booster shot (as of March 13), and the new Omicron BA2 variant seems to be more contagious than the one that cancelled our winter break. As everyone’s returning from their March breaks abroad, there’s bound to be some sort of Covid spike.

Naturally, there are a decent amount of situations when wearing a mask can put you at a disadvantage. Besides affecting your ability to breathe while playing sports, masks can also get filled up with mucus when you wear them in the cold, and can make it hard to smell pleasing scents. They make it hard to log into your phone and send snaps to people. But most of these scenarios don’t happen at school, and compared with the risk of getting BA2 or having to stay home, it’s not really that bad.

The first time I wore a mask, it was April 2020, I had just completed my 14-day quarantine (remember that?), and I realized that supermarkets wouldn’t let me enter if I didn’t have one. My family was able to track down a box of 50 medical masks at Home Hardware for an outrageous price of $60. The initial struggles were there, as we put the masks on upside down, backwards, and every other way you can think of. That box kept us going for that summer, and finally, in time for the beginning of last school year, I got my first reusable mask, a patterned illustration of Kevin from The Office dropping his chili. I wore that until winter break of that year, when UCC had to shut down because of the first big influx of Covid cases. Since then, it’s been a mix of the standard blue and black masks, alternating every so often depending on our supply.

The fact that I can narrate exactly when, how, and why I got different masks tells a lot about the pandemic and masks in general. Masks are kind of like a new pair of shoes: they’re initially fun to pick out, and then you use them for a long time without consciously thinking about it. Masks are a form of self-expression, and help to provide a reminder about exactly what has happened over the past two years. Now that we’re getting rid of them, I can’t help but feel like we’re banishing away the memories of an interesting, unique period of time. I have to admit that a small part of me will be sad to unceremoniously toss out something that was such a central part of everyday life for the last 2+ years.