For two years now, there has been some form of mask mandate on campus. Starting Tuesday, though, masks will no longer be required on campus. We disagree.

Emporia State’s announcement comes after Gov. Laura Kelly rescinded the mask mandate of the executive branch of Kansas government late last week. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the continued use of masks in Lyon County due to the high transmission rates in the county.

Everyone is tired. This pandemic has taken a significant toll on all of us. We’re all ready for it to end—to go back to normal, to not wear masks anymore, to not worry about the person with the cough, to not worry about who has their vaccines—it’s tiresome.

But, as much as we might want that to end, public health is ultimately so much more important than whether or not we wear a piece of fabric on our faces. It’s a smaller price to pay than the life of a loved one.

Despite the desperation to return to “normal,” or whatever that will look like now, we must continue in our collective efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Nearly 65% of the U.S. population have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data. Of the world population, 62.5% have received their first vaccination, according to Our World in Data. This leaves approximately three billion people completely unvaccinated. Even for people with vaccinations, there’s still a chance they could contract COVID-19.

As a university, with the majority of its students coming from out of town, out of state and out of country, we have a responsibility to not just protect our students, but their friends and families, as well. Our ESU community is so much more than those who occupy campus.

Unfortunately, this also means that those who occupy campus bring in germs, and potentially COVID-19, when they go home for the weekend. With our first spring break since March 2020 around the corner, it’s imperative that we’re taking the proper precautions to protect campus.

Cases have gone down because of the safeguards set in place to protect us, like the mask mandate. Take that away, and cases will rise again, especially after spring break.

Now, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t have a spring break. We should’ve been given one last year because they’re vital to the mental health of both students and faculty. It’s simply that we need to ensure we’re coming together as a community to protect each other for the greater good.

During a time when we feel almost powerless in protecting our families and friends, it’s imperative we do what we can—including maintaining the mask mandate.

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