Lifted mask mandate causes tension in the halls of Hereford

Katie Lowe (’22) and Rylee McDaniel (’22) pose for a picture during senior seminar. Lowe decided to stop wearing a mask on March 1st while McDaniel chose to continue wearing hers.

Katie Lowe (’22) and Rylee McDaniel (’22) pose for a picture during senior seminar. Lowe decided to stop wearing a mask on March 1st while McDaniel chose to continue wearing hers.

Matt Campbell, Reporter

On Tuesday, March 1st, the mask mandate for students and teachers across Baltimore County Public Schools was lifted. While the decision was made with medical implications in mind, numerous social and emotional consequences have ensued. 

Long before the lifted mask mandate at Hereford, conflicting opinions surrounding the idea of masks were made clear by all sides. There were those who refused to wear them, those who avidly supported them, and those who found themselves somewhere in between. With restrictions now gone, one might’ve expected this divide to fade, yet the various opinions are still present in the halls of Hereford. 

Some students who still choose to wear a mask for various reasons are facing harassment for their decision. Some may argue that “COVID is over” and that “there’s no reason to wear face coverings anymore.” However, despite the absence of masks as a visual reminder, COVID-19 is still present in our lives today. Some students and their family members have various medical conditions that force them to still be cautious about the virus today. 

Sarah Flagle (’23) is an example of someone who has continued to wear a mask despite the lifted mandate. Flagle has been harassed in the hallway for her decision. 

“I was walking over the science bridge and there were students behind me yelling at me to take my mask off,” Flagle said. “I choose to wear a mask to protect my family. My dad has a compromised immune system, and my mom is a healthcare worker, which is already enough risk on its own.” 

Anna Orner (’25) also chooses to wear a mask still and has a situation similar to Flagle. 

“I wear a mask during school because my mom is immune compromised,” Orner said. “I don’t want her to get COVID, and it’s not a hassle for me to wear a mask.” 

In freshman gym classes, some students have been ripping masks off the faces of their peers wearing them. This just proves that no matter how or why it’s done, there is unfair treatment occurring in school over the issue. Whether one chooses to wear a mask or not, it’s important to be respectful of others’ decisions. 

“After the mask mandate got lifted, I chose to not wear a mask anymore,” Joe Sheckells (’22) said. “However, I understand and respect if other people still choose to.”  

Without the social pressures of high school, we’d probably see way more students wearing masks today than there actually are. Several students said they waited to see whether their peers were wearing masks or not on March 1st before making a decision for themselves. This social dynamic even influences those who choose to go maskless as well. For underclassmen, March 1st was the first time a lot of them saw their peers’ full faces for the first time. Many have noted feeling self-conscious of their appearance without the face covering. 

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 cases have decreased significantly since the peak of the omicron variant, and this is what ultimately caused the lifting of the mask mandate. According to BCPS data, the number of positive cases in Hereford High decreased from 37 in the week of January 7th through January 14th to just 1 in the week the mandate got lifted, February 25th through March 4th. 

However, regardless of the numbers, everyone has their reasons about whether they wear a face covering or not. If there’s anything that can be taken away from the situation, it would simply be to just respect others. One’s decision to wear a mask or not is theirs and theirs only, and others need to be considerate of that.