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Mask mandate lifted in WHS, California

Makenna Norman

Starting March 14 under the direction of Governor Gavin Newson, California schools will not be mandating students to wear masks indoors. This shift in policy was made on Feb. 28 in an announcement by Newsom’s administration, and WHS is complying with this guidance along with other schools in the Conejo Valley Unified School District.

“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic,” said Newsom according to a press release published by his office. “We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”

Newsom lifted the mask mandate and shifted to mask recommendations along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee. According to Newsom’s press release, all three states took this action due to the declining hospitalizations and overall COVID–19 cases. Like California, both Oregon and Washington lifted the mandate in schools and other child–care facilities after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.

Though this new update lifts the mask requirement in schools, masks will still be required in “high transmission settings like public transit, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long–term care facilities,” according to Newsom’s press release.

The decision to lift mask mandates in schools was preceded by Newsom’s decision to cease requiring masks in most indoor settings on March 1. Like the most recent update for schools, masks are still recommended to be worn indoors; however, California officials have stated that they will no longer require masks for unvaccinated individuals following the decision made on March 1.

“As we move from a requirement to a strong recommendation, I keep saying it that way because it’s important to understand that we’re not lifting a masking concept in California,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, according to ABC News. “We aren’t going from masks one day, don’t mask the next.”

Masks have been required in schools and public places for almost two years since the start of the COVID–19 pandemic. Because of this, there are many people around California and in WHS who are hesitant to lift the mask mandate, though others are eager to return to a “state of normalcy.”

“Today is an important day for California, one that is driven by the data and the science,” said Ghaly, referencing the mask mandate ending for indoor spaces, according to LA Times. “We’re seeing extremely encouraging news, but one that I know will be received with some trepidation, and acknowledging that and giving communities time and space to make decisions based on the thoughtful listening that I know will occur is very important.”

The mask mandate being lifted will not only affect instruction during the school day at WHS but also the extracurricular activities held there. For instance, the theater cast, dance team, choir and other groups on campus have been required to wear masks during their performances, which has presented challenges. With the end of this requirement, they will have to change the way they perform yet again.

“[Masks] definitely make it more challenging,” said Hayley Shukiar ‘24, starring as the lead role, Velma Kelly, in the upcoming WHS theater production Chicago. “I will say that it’s been nice to not have to worry about getting sick during the rehearsal process, … but it definitely makes it harder, especially for the dancing part of [the production]. My part is a very dance–heavy role, so [masks] just add another level of difficulty, but it hasn’t been too hard to manage at all.”

In theater, Shukiar believes that masks have been advantageous in some ways, such as slowing the spread of sickness, and an obstacle in others, such as making singing and dancing more difficult.

According to Shukiar, though the mask mandate has been lifted, the cast will not be working without masks until dress rehearsals to ensure safety. She hopes that with the lifting of the mandate, portraying her character will become easier as she will be able to more openly sing, dance and act.

“I think it’ll get easier for sure,” said Shukiar. “I think the singing and dancing part is going to get easier, but I’m also going to have to get used to acting with my mouth again, which is not something I’ve been used to for the past two years. I think it’s going to take getting used to.” 

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About the Contributor
Makenna Norman
Makenna Norman, Co-Editor-In Chief
she/her Hey besties! I’m Makenna and I’m Co–Editor–in–Chief of The Arrow. I’ve been on the staff for three years, and have previously been Web–Editor–in–Chief, Feature Section Editor, and Featured Columnist. I joined journalism because I love writing and I am informed and interested in current events and issues. I love being able to write about important topics and share my passions in the newspaper and on our website. Outside of journalism, I play the violin and am in WHS’s Chamber Orchestra, and my hobbies include creative writing and crocheting. My favorite songs from Midnights are “Maroon” and “You’re On Your Own, Kid.” 
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Mask mandate lifted in WHS, California