Lorain County Community college students got to have a taste of Covid-19 freedom for the first time since March of 2020, but not everyone is ready for the change.
March brought a game changer to students on LCCC’s campuses as the mask mandate that previously covered campus was lifted for the first time since the fall of 2020 when it went into effect. While many students are elated to be able to show their full faces for the first time in two years, not all are as quick to jump for joy.
“Just not there yet,” Arts major Margo Aziza Solace says she does not agree with the mandate being lifted. “I don’t think it should be,” she explains, continuing, “Even though Covid-19 numbers are slightly down, it’s going to spike without the mandate. We’ve tried this before and again the same results.”
Solace wants to make it clear that she is not firmly against the mandate lift stating, “I would love to get back to normalcy, but we’re just not there yet. We need to get vaccine rates up, not just a dip in the numbers.”
Student senate president Zarai Aquino voiced similar concerns saying, “I actually feel weird without the masks, everyone can see my face.” Aquino laughed slightly before continuing, “I enjoyed the masks because I wasn’t being told to smile more and I enjoyed the sense of privacy they gave.”
English major Destiny Torres echoed Aquino’s mixed feelings saying, “I am so used to wearing my mask that it feels weird to take it off. I’m not quite ready yet.”
Jonathan Volpe, vice president for Administrative Services and Treasurer, sat on LCCC’s Covid-19 task force. He says of the mask decision, “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we have followed the guidance as issued by the CDC, the Ohio Department of Health and Lorain County Public Health Department in order to establish safety protocols on campus.”
Because of the CDC’s recent decision to designate Lorain County as an area that is no longer experiencing a high level of infection, the Covid-19 task force ultimately decided to lift the mandate. For Volpe, “the LCCC community has demonstrated that we can live with the virus in a relatively safe manner by making knowledgeable decisions about our individual health.”
Aquino and psychology major Danelle Johnson see the mandate lift as creating a possible whole different kind of problem. Aquino says, “One thing I can sense a problem with is the vaccinated against the unvaccinated. It is definitely something to keep an eye on as a student senator.” Johnson expressed similar concerns, but with a positive twist. She says, “I know everybody is still leery, “I know everybody is still leery but I like that I can see people’s faces. Despite the anger and fear that might arise regarding vaccination status, I feel like it’s more warm and inviting now and gives us a chance to be more inviting and personable.”
Volpe does understand the concerns that students like Solace, Torres, Aquino and Johnson have and asks students that “as we enter this new phase, please be patient, understanding and respectful with each other.” LCCC has been preparing for this changeover since last fall when it installed air purification systems across campus to purify the air and reduce the ability of the virus to spread.
Despite those students that are hesitant, many are also relieved. Elizabeth Tutak says she feels “pretty good, it’s just kind of uncomfortable because I’m not used to making proper facial expressions, but overall, I like it.”
Early College High School junior Katy Paige agrees with Tutak claiming, “I am so happy to feel free. I can breathe again without feeling stuffy all the time.”
Even still, some students and staff don’t have as firm of an opinion on the mandate being lifted.
Student Senate representative Julian Ortiz says, “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal except for the fitness center. It was a lot nicer to work out without a mask on.” English 162 professor Martha Williams concurs with Ortiz. She says, “I feel mixed. Sometimes I have it on, sometimes I have it off. I know it can prevent illness and honestly, I’m not too sure I want to invite germs back into my life.”
As we travel into this new phase in our world of education, the hope is that by demasking, students can get back to being themselves and classes can aim to have a sliver of their pre-Covid days.