One Month After WCPSS Ends Mask Mandate: Has Anything Changed?

It has been over a month since Wake County Public Schools ended the mask mandate on March 7th. On February 22nd, when the end of the mandate was announced, the Eagle’s Eye launched a series of Instagram polls asking students about their feelings on the new ruling. Since then, reported COVID-19 cases have continued to fall and many are wondering how that has affected mask-wearing and thoughts on COVID-19 at Enloe.

On Wednesday, April 6th, the Eagle’s Eye held the same series of polls as held on February 22nd, but with a few of the questions slightly reworded to fit the current circumstances and a few new questions. Each question received an average of 377 responses.

The percentage of respondents who are vaccinated has remained the same at 98%, and 80% of respondents answered that they have received booster shots. The rate at which respondents are vaccinated trumps both the national vaccination rate of 65% and the national booster rate of 29%.

COVID-19 cases in North Carolina since the beginning of the pandemic.

In February, 55% of respondents said that they would be more likely to take off their masks if cases continued to drop. A month later, reported COVID cases have gone stagnant with a state average of approximately 500 to 800 cases a day, and with weekly totals of around 2,000 to 3,000 cases. Now, 71% of respondents from this survey are more likely to take off their masks than when the mandate was lifted, whereas 29% are not. Since then, the U.S. has experienced an uptick in cases with the rise of the Omicron BA.2 variant, in which North Carolina’s weekly total cases increased to 4,740 for the week of April 3.


COVID-19 variants in North Carolina since July 2021.

The most noticeable difference between the mindsets of respondents in late February and April is that they feel much safer without the mask mandate. Whereas 24% of respondents answered that they would feel safe without a mandate and 76% wouldn’t feel safe in February, now, 73% of respondents answered that they feel safe in school, and 27% do not.

Most of the respondents who answered that they feel safe in school mentioned that not much has changed since the mandate was lifted, as most students continue to wear masks and the majority of Enloe is vaccinated against COVID-19. One respondent elaborated, “I’m vaccinated, and [I’ve] got better things to worry about than being sick.”

One respondent who answered that they do not feel safe in school said, “As more and more [people] choose not to wear masks, more variants run rampant and [especially] affect people with disabilities such as autoimmune diseases just for a sense of normalcy. Treating people with disabilities like they are expendable is outrageous.” Another said, “I worry for my immunocompromised family members and classmates’ family members. I just don’t think it’s time yet. Maybe next year?”

Enloe doesn’t look very different from when the mandate was first lifted. In response to whether they had contracted COVID in the last month or know anyone that has, 22% answered that they did, and 78% answered that they hadn’t.

In a free space for respondents to voice their opinions, many mentioned judgment and social pressure as being factors for not removing their masks, despite feeling safe without them: “There’s a lot of judgment based on personal opinion that I think shouldn’t be there.” 

“I feel like enough time has passed since the mandate was lifted that any major spikes would have been noticed and I haven’t heard of any. I don’t want to wear a mask for the rest of the school year, but don’t want to be the first to take it off. I kinda wish people agreed to stop wearing them (or at least that it is okay to) at the same time.”

While other WCPSS schools have stopped wearing masks since the beginning of March, it seems that most of Enloe still isn’t ready to pocket the masks. Whether the reason for wearing masks is because of social pressure or to reduce risks for immunocompromised students and family members, it is likely that there will not be any noticeable change until the next school year.