With the COVID-19 pandemic at a close, will masks ever go away for some?

It’s been roughly two and a half years since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill and much has changed. Debates about civil liberties, social responsibility and even science itself entered the public discourse. Although much of society seems to be reverting back to their pre-pandemic ways, some aren’t ready to make the switch back. 

In a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” President Biden announced the pandemic was over. “We still have a problem with COVID. We are still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” President Biden told Scott Pelley. 

In the interview at the Detroit Auto Show, the President also addressed masks. “If you notice, no one’s wearing masks,” he said, “Everyone seems to be in pretty good shape.” Despite the President himself declaring an end to the pandemic, why are so many still wearing masks? 

On campus here at Azusa Pacific University, the vast majority of students have put away their masks for good. Most of the student body and faculty members go about their days mask-free as if it were 2017. However, there are some who are sticking to the COVID-era tradition of wearing a mask everywhere on campus. 

For many, the decision to continue wearing a mask is for personal reasons. Given that the act of wearing a mask is a personal choice, it makes sense. In discussions around campus, it seems the most common reasons given are things like “I am or live with someone who has an autoimmune disease” or “I just feel comfortable this way.” 

Both responses are valid points. For those at high risk for COVID, it makes sense to protect yourself. If wearing a mask makes you feel safe, by all means, wear that mask. However, at what point do we return to pre-COVID life, if ever? 

I’m certainly not advocating against a person’s right to choose whether or not they wear a mask; rather, I’m simply saying that it might be time to consider the reality of the situation. At what point do we stop fearing what has become a highly treatable disease and return to living our lives? 

Even Los Angeles County, which had some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the country, is ending its mask mandate on public transit as of Oct. 2. Los Angeles was one of the last major cities to require masks on public transit and in transit hubs. 

Some nursing homes and hospitals are also no longer requiring universal mask-wearing. Per CBS News, the CDC guidelines on mask-wearing for a quarter of US counties have been revised to eliminate the universal mask requirement. If two of the biggest risk groups for COVID-19 are no longer required to wear masks, why are young, healthy college students still wearing them? 

Even the Spanish flu outbreak in 1918, a disease that has frequently been compared to COVID-19, saw the end of mask-wearing. Both diseases were seen as major threats to public health and had mask mandates implemented. Although masks were common during the heart of the Spanish Flu outbreak, they eventually died out after the disease was no longer prevalent. Now that we face a similar situation, it’s time to follow suit and lose the masks. 

If there’s one thing most of us learned from the pandemic, it’s how quickly our lives can change forever. One day changed everyday life for Americans. No more going to school, work, or your favorite coffee shop. No more catching a movie with friends or singing your heart out at a Taylor Swift concert. How much time and how many memories were lost during the pandemic?

We need to take back our lost time and live every moment to the fullest. You can’t live your life in constant fear. A life lived in fear is no life at all. If you still wish to wear a mask, go ahead, I respect your decision. But how much longer will we let COVID-19 dominate our lives? 

It’s time to move forward and put this pandemic behind us. I do believe we will eventually see a day where masks are no more. It may be months or even years from now, but we will come to a point where we recognize that we can no longer live in fear and begin to take back our lives.