EDITORIAL: Masks work. We should know.

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On Aug. 23, three days before the start of school, the Boiling Point Editorial Board met with Rabbi Block for two hours in his office at school.

Sitting around the coffee table with no doors or windows open, little did any of us know that Rabbi Block would become ill with Covid-19 just a few hours later, and test positive for it the next day.

All five Editorial Board members present had been exposed to Covid. But all five were also fully vaccinated and completely masked the whole time — as was Rabbi Block himself.

No one else at that meeting contracted Covid-19.

Masks work and successfully mitigate transmission of the virus.

At the start of this school year, we celebrated having all grades together back on campus for the first time since March 2020, the only restriction being a mandate that everyone wear masks while indoors. But many students still do not wear their masks above their noses, or even wear a mask at all.

This mask-wearing issue is slowly improving, but it still has a ways to go. Some teachers, but certainly not all, will tell students in the halls to put their masks on. English teacher Ms. Nancy Fasules, Chief Operating Officer Ms. Sarah Emerson, Jewish History teacher Mr. Jeremy Shine, and Ed Support Specialist Ms. Valencia Wilson are just some of the staff members on campus who are known for asking students to put on their masks. Everybody deserves to feel safe when walking into the Shalhevet building each morning, and these teachers are helping to ensure that safety.

But most students do not face any repercussions for not wearing their mask indoors. Interviews with school officials confirmed that the school has no set policy for students who don’t wear masks, or who wear them improperly.

More shockingly, some teachers, administrators and staff do not always wear a mask themselves in the halls. Several sometimes even teach maskless indoors.

A fact about Covid is that you’re contagious the day before you know you’re sick. That means anyone without a mask may find out the next day that they exposed everyone who they spent time with indoors. And while most people have mild cases, as of this week more than 700,000 Americans have died of Covid-19. No one knows in advance who will be severely affected if they catch it, or who they will severely affect.

It is the responsibility of Shalhevet faculty to model Covid safety to students. Wearing a mask is part of being a mensch. We encourage all Shalhevet students and staff to wear their masks while indoors on campus to protect students, teachers, and the community.

If we had not been wearing masks while we met with Rabbi Block, we could have potentially had a breakthrough infection as did Rabbi Block and been forced to miss the opening days of school.

In the days following our exposure, we waited and wondered if symptoms would appear or if those of us who got tested would receive a positive result. If Rabbi Block had not been wearing a mask, things could have been quite different. We thank him for protecting us, and look forward to the day when all students, staff and faculty at Shalhevet will do everything they can to protect one another.

 

Originally published in The Boiling Point on Oct. 27, 2021.

This story won First Prize in the 2022 Jewish Scholastic Journalism Awards in the category: “Opinion: Non-first-person opinion on any Jewish or Israel-related story. This category would encompass unsigned editorials.”

JSPA Judges’ Comments: Excellent commentary on mask wearing at school and problems with compliance. Well-reasoned, based on direct experience as a jumping off point.