Masks to Become Optional in Wake County Public Schools

In a school board meeting on February 22nd, the WCPSS School Board decided to end the school mask mandate starting Monday, March 7th, and immediately for school athletics.

This announcement comes after a press conference on February 17th, where Governor Roy Cooper encouraged public schools and local governments to end their mask mandates. We are taking a positive step on mask requirements to help us move safely toward a more normal day-to-day life,” said Governor Cooper. “It’s time to focus on getting our children a good education and improving our schools, no matter how you feel about masks.” The governor also made sure to remind parents that masks are not being discouraged in schools with the end of the mandate: “Some people, including me, will feel more comfortable wearing a mask when they are in crowds, for example. Parents might still want their children wearing a mask inside school.” 

A graph of daily positive COVID-19 cases in North Carolina. @NCDHHS Covid-19 Response

Lately, North Carolina has seen a downward trend of COVID-19 infections, reaching its lowest daily cases since the surge of the Omicron variant in January. Currently, 71% of adults in North Carolina are fully vaccinated, and 51% have had booster shots.

The Eagle’s Eye held a series of Instagram polls on Tuesday, the 22nd to gain a sense of how Enloe will react to the lifting of the mandate. 

When asked, “If cases continue to decline, will you consider wearing a mask less often?” 216 respondents answered yes (55.1%), and 176 responded no. When asked if they were vaccinated against COVID-19, 418 responded yes (97.7%), while 10 responded no.

When asked, “Would you feel safe without a mask mandate at school?” 88 answered yes (23.9%), and 281 (76.1%) answered no. There was also an option for respondents to explain their answers, with individuals who answered yes mainly conveying their trust in the COVID-19 vaccines and that most of Enloe is vaccinated and boosted. The students who answered no predominantly pointed out concerns of students’ family members being high-risk and more vulnerable to COVID-19. Some also brought to attention that some of “the long-term effects of getting COVID are still unknown.”

Many of the students who said that they would feel safe without a mandate at school said that they would continue to wear their masks regardless: “I’m vaccinated so [I don’t really care;] I [just] wanna keep wearing a mask for other [people’s] safety.”

“It’s gonna spread no matter what. I feel safe but I worry about people who aren’t as safe.” – a sophomore respondent.

“People are still spreading the virus and although I’m vaxxed and probably won’t be affected as much, I could still spread it to those who will have a strong reaction.” – a junior respondent.

“I don’t want to risk not having a prom or graduation.” – a senior respondent.

When given a slide poll to indicate how often students respondents would wear masks at school, the average response was about 90% of the time.

These results suggest that while the mask mandate is ending in Wake County schools, the public choice to wear one likely won’t change at Enloe until cases continue to drop.