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Please reconsider school mask mandates

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To the editor: I am a Fairbanks high school student concerned that schools will shut down and kids will have to quarantine at home, unless the school board implements further Covid-19 mitigation measures. My friends and I have missed out on a lot of experiences in the last 20 months, as has the entire community, so we want to avoid this in the future.

Unfortunately, the FNSB School District’s current policy of testing, contact tracing and quarantining is a reactive strategy, similar to stamping out a fire after it’s begun. By comparison, vaccines and masks are proactive, preventing spread before it starts, even before symptoms begin.

Masks are effective at protecting people from Covid-19, according to studies in the International Journal of Nursing Studies and many others, including those by the CDC and EPA. All show the same result: When people consistently wear masks, they protect themselves and others by not spreading Covid-19. Masks are one of the best prevention strategies besides vaccines because you are many times less likely to get Covid if you are wearing a mask.

I started school in-person this year but without a mask mandate. I don’t know how long it will last with only reactive measures in place. I was exposed to Covid after only a few days at school. This exposure makes me feel like my sacrifices over the last 20 months were all for nothing. State Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink says if all students wear masks, close contacts to Covid do not need to quarantine and schools can stay open. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to protect both students and teachers while ensuring schools stay open.

The school district requires a dress code to attend school but for some reason does not require students to wear a mask as protection from a disease that has killed over 628,000 Americans, both young and old. Why is it a problem for the school board to enact a mask mandate, when the Delta variant has compromised Alaska’s hospital system even more than last spring? Even though we all wish Covid was gone, it will not go away unless we continue to work together to overcome this disease.

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