Important Information to Consider When Deciding Whether to Continue Masking Up: Are We Flattening the Curve or Deepening the Valley?


Misha Ankudovych, Editor-In-Chief

As of Wednesday March 2nd, NYS Governor Hochul has discontinued the mask mandate for schools in New York State. This news follows an ordinance in February that no longer required masks in other indoor settings across the state. Following this guidance, Amityville and other school districts have adopted a mask optional policy. While many are overjoyed at this opportunity to grasp on to a sense of normalcy, we must ask: is this safe? 

(COVID-19 statistics provided by the New York Times for Suffolk County.)

As seen on the graph, there appears to be an extremely optimistic trend in terms of the COVID-19 positivity rate. Donning a 54% decrease in positivity over the last 2 weeks, and an astounding 1.93% positivity rate for February 28th. The dissolvement of this mandate has presented New York with a meaningful test: Have we truly flattened the curve, or have we just created a deeper value for COVID-19 cases to eventually shoot back up from? 

Here is some notable information regarding the situation: 

  1. The extreme of the spike depicted on the above graph occurs almost exactly 14 days after Christmas. 
  2. There was no increase in cases after the indoor mask mandate was dropped for other indoor venues in the state on February 10th, even a full 14 days after the mandate ended. 
  3. There was no increase in the positivity rate in the 2 weeks following Valentine’s Day. 
  4. 89% of New York has at least one dose of the Vaccine, 75% of Suffolk County is fully vaccinated. 
  5. It is possible that an abundance of at-home rapid tests may be influencing the positivity rate drastically in either direction. 
  6. While this guidance can possibly make sense for non-immunocompromised people, the CDC guidance has not changed for those with weakened immune systems, or for those who are living with people with weakened  immune systems. The CDC states that immunocompromised people should continue to take all precautions that are recommended for unvaccinated people. This includes wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator. They also recommend getting a fourth dose of the vaccine. 

It is natural for people to be hesitant about removing their masks for the first time in years. However, with a positivity rate below 2%, it has become difficult to continue to justify state-wide mask mandates. Unfortunately, we are unable to truly predict the effect this move will have on positivity rates, and experts will have no idea until it is attempted. 

This new move, and the entire COVID-19 pandemic has continually created more questions than it answers. Will COVID-19 become a burden we learn to deal with each holiday season? Will we be taking precautions for the rest of our lives? Or maybe, this is the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, there truly is no way to answer any of these questions. However, with all of these unknowns, one thing is certain: School administration and teachers will be grateful to no longer have to act as ‘mask police’.