The COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 resulted in isolation, social distancing, online classes and no events with crowds in big venues.
During 2021, we have returned to a relatively normal life. College classes are in person again. Many artists went on tours this year and sporting events are open to full capacity. People are able to interact with each other once more.
Although masks are required in campus buildings and when entering buildings in Monroe County, people seem to be less worried about wearing masks because of higher vaccination rates.
The return of the events we all enjoy also means the return of the cold and flu season. If we wear a mask when we are sick with viral infections this may help contain the spread of infections and keep people healthy.
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People who have symptoms that are not severe may still choose to go out with friends despite being contagious. Unless they go to a place where masks are enforced, it is likely they will spread their illness to the people around them.
Face masks offer extra protection for those who are not sick.
Last year, respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infection rates were extremely low because of the COVID-19 shutdown and regulations. In a sample of 29,578 people in December 2019, 16.2% tested positive for influenza A and in December 2020, the rate was 0.3%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This year’s cold and flu season has already been brutal, likely because the public’s natural immunity dropped due to a stagnation of influenza exposure in 2020.
The regulations and strict mask mandates last year helped students limit their interactions with other people and therefore were less at risk of being exposed to pathogens from viruses that transfer through droplets, skin contact and touching infected surfaces.
If we continue to wear masks when we are sick we can prevent viruses from spreading to other people.
Sometimes we might be infected with the common cold but still have important things to go to like college classes, practices or other activities that people cannot miss. The common cold is contagious until all symptoms are gone, which is a long time to potentially get other people sick.
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Illnesses in college spread like wildfire because of living or being in close proximity to other people. Students do not always take preventative measures, such as washing hands regularly and not sharing personal items with each other.
Illnesses might also be spreading more rapidly this year because while people wear masks in classes, when they socialize at bars, clubs, dorms and houses students do not wear masks as often.
In healthcare settings like hospitals and practices, healthcare workers are recommended to wear masks when helping a patient with the flu. When people come in to see a doctor with a respiratory infection it is recommended that they be given a mask to contain their illness.
These workers are not sick, but they take these precautions in order to stay healthy and keep others around them healthy. Viral illnesses are like a snowball effect and if one person gets sick, they typically infect someone else. When that newly sickened person infects another person, the cycle goes on.
We should wear masks in public while experiencing symptoms of illnesses in order to protect others and still have a normal day.
Cassie Golden (she/her) is a sophomore studying psychology and counseling. She is involved in the Marching Hundred, Marching Hundred Student Organization and psychology club.