Students part ways with their masks

As the number of COVID cases rapidly declines, Washington state is ready to lift the mask mandate


Cameron Smutz

Unobstructed: Students in German class participate in their regular class activity while mask-free. The class learned better being able to see each other’s mouths while speaking. “I think not having to wear masks makes learning German a lot easier. You can see the way people’s mouths are moving when they say words you aren’t familiar with, so it’s easier to learn how to pronounce them,” junior Keaton Axtell said.

Monday, March 14 marked the day that the Lake StevensSchool District mask mandate was officially lifted in line with the county and state. This change had been anticipated for months. COVID rates were dropping rapidly, and the severity of symptoms was reported to be less severe. For these reasons, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced in February that by March 21, students and teachers across the state would be able to go to class without masks. 

This prompted the Lake Stevens School District Superintendent Ken Collins to follow suit, announcing in an email sent out on Feb. 17 that beginning March 21, indoor mask-wearing would become optional.

However, on March 10, Collins sent out another email to the district which announced that the first day that masks would be optional at school had been moved earlier to Monday, March 14, due to the statewide lift of the mandate being moved to March 11 as a result of a steeper decline in cases. 

“I think it’s fine. I think there’s nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t cause any problems. We’ve reached a point where Coronavirus is not as serious as it once was. Everyone who’s at risk is double, triple vaxxed or has already had it, and people don’t care as much anymore. So, therefore, it is acceptable to lift the mandate sooner,” senior Drake Miesel said.

Since students are still presented with the choice of whether to wear one or not, the announcement from the school district heavily emphasized the notion that everyone must be kind and respectful to the decisions that others make regarding mask-wearing. They asked everyone to be respectful and sensitive to the individual needs of the students and employees during the transition. Most students seem to support this expectation.

“Everyone gets to choose for themselves, and there’s no right answer,” junior Keaton Axtell said.

Although the announcement stated that mask-wearing would still be encouraged, the ability to take off the mask was longingly awaited for by some students, and many of them still took the opportunity to go mask-free starting Monday.

“I will not be wearing my mask because I don’t want to. It couldn’t be simpler,” Miesel said.

But mask-wearing is still optional–and encouraged, and due to a multitude of concerns, whether it may be an at-risk family member, asymptomatic spreading of the virus, or even simply not wanting to show their face, there are plenty of students who are still choosing to mask up

“I think recommending it is still a good idea…In certain situations, I won’t [wear a mask], but I think I would still wear it most of the time,” senior Cyrus Schmit said.

It is important to acknowledge the conditions that allowed the state of Washington to reach this point. The high vaccination rate has helped to make COVID cases steeply fall recently. According to the Washington State Department of Health, already 80% of the population of 5-year-olds and up has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is considered herd immunity. This will continue to help the state minimize hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months as more continue to get vaccinated without a mask mandate.