Outdoor mask policy updated following declining COVID-19 cases

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Photo credit: Greta Irvine

Junior Maya Bajaj works in the library courtyard with her mask on. Archer removed its outdoor mask mandate Feb. 16 for vaccinated students and employees. “It’s just an instinct to wear a mask,” Bajaj said. “I don’t really notice it anymore.”

By Greta Irvine, News Editor

A new masking era has begun. Los Angeles County lifted the outdoor mask mandate for K-12 schools for vaccinated individuals Feb. 16. In accordance with this development, Head of School Elizabeth English notified the community in an email Feb. 15 that Archer will no longer require vaccinated students and employees to wear masks while outdoors.

A portion of the community is still choosing to wear masks outside, while others have begun to take off their masks in outdoor spaces, such as the courtyard and amphitheater. Junior Daisy Marmur is among those excited about the new mask regulation.

“I think that it’s really great that we don’t have to wear masks outside anymore because it’s so refreshing to get to see the bottom half of my classmates’ faces,” Marmur said. “I feel like we’ve read a lot of research that implies that it’s a lot harder to attract COVID outside, and with the numbers declining, I think that this is a positive, slow and careful step in the right direction, and I’m in support.”

The indoor mask mandate is still in place for K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. In her email, English referenced the “strong possibility” that the state of California will end the indoor mask mandate Monday, Feb. 28. However, Los Angeles County indicated that it is currently not ready to make that change to its protocols.

“According to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health, the county’s indoor mask rule will not be lifted until the county’s virus-transmission rate falls to the ‘moderate’ level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for two straight weeks,” English wrote. “Reaching the CDC’s ‘moderate’ designation requires the county to have a cumulative seven-day new case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. According to the CDC’s website, the county’s rate was about 459 per 100,000 as of Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.”

The revised outdoor mask policy has impacted the functioning of fitness classes; for outdoor classes, students may now choose whether or not to wear a mask. Fitness and Wellness teacher Dani LeNoir shared her observations of the new mask policy in action.  

“It’s been a mix. Some students will opt to take their mask off for some fresh air, especially because we’re in a unit now where they’re running a lot more, and some students decide to keep it on,” LeNoir said. “We had a conversation before we started class after the new ruling came out, and we made sure that we were making the environment safe for everybody to choose what it is that they want to do and that there is no judgment regardless of what that student does.”

After wearing a mask at all times on campus for six months, some students, like junior Maya Bajaj, have grown accustomed to it.

“I think because we’ve been wearing masks for a while, it doesn’t feel like a hassle or a job,” Bajaj said. “It’s just normal to us now, and now I feel more comforted when I’m wearing a mask. Whenever I walk out of the house, I always have a mask, even if it’s not required. I just feel like it’s like an instinct to bring a mask.”

English concluded her email to the community with a reference to the falling case numbers in California and the impact of this mask policy development on the school environment.

“We are pleased that cases are rapidly declining,” English wrote,” and are excited to take this step toward returning to a school environment where our students can breathe freely and see one another’s smiles again!”