Posted on: February 25, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Schudt

By Nick Stulga, News Editor

As we approach the second year of uncertainty, angst, and fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, could it all be gone in the blink of an eye–or the removal of a mask?

Effective Monday, Illinois will no longer require people to wear masks in public places–with some exceptions, including schools. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, saying the state is “seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began,” has lifted the state mask mandate.

With this new change comes the burning question: Could this be it? The beginning of the end?

The pandemic is not so much ending as it is shifting, with COVID becoming part of normal life, according to nurse practitioner and Moraine Valley professor Leslie Moyar.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker lifts mask mandate at a press conference on Feb. 9, 2022. The image was taken by Tyler LaRiviere of the Associated Press.

“I think at this point it’s so widespread, so many people, most people, have probably been exposed to COVID,” Moyar said.  “It’s now not really a pandemic anymore, it’s more like an endemic, which would mean it’s just going to be with us forever now, like a flu virus.”

Moyar said individuals may have to keep vaccines updated, similar to the flu vaccine.

“There have been so many variants already, it looks like we’ll have to keep matching our vaccine to the new variants,” Moyar said.

There’s probably a lot of people that say they will continue to wear a mask in the winter, in the cold and flu season.”

Leslie Moyar, Nurse Practitioner and Faculty at Moraine

Kevin Navratil, a political science professor, has a similar opinion but predicts school districts as well as colleges will take more time to diminish their COVID regulations.

“I do think we are close to the end of the pandemic and in light of this, most mitigation strategies have already been updated across nearly all state and local governments,” Navratil said. “I expect some school districts and colleges will lag behind in removing their mask, vaccine/weekly testing mandates.”

For Moraine, masks will remain in place at least up until spring break, when regulations will be reevaluated. The college is taking a cautious approach with COVID protocols, which has proved effective in the past.

“Moraine Valley will continue to require mask-wearing indoors through March,” according to Student eNews. “College officials will re-evaluate masking and the impact of COVID-19 on the college community after spring break.”

Anthony Fauci, one of the government’s top medical experts, told the Washington Post that the country is “on the road to approaching normality.” But what exactly will this “normality” look like?

“I talked to a lot of people that said they will probably never ride in a plane again without a mask because you’re so close to people and it’s kind of recycled air or whatnot,” Moyar said. “When you go get your haircut or do something that’s close [contact], people aren’t going to be as comfortable doing that without a mask on.”

As far as handling COVID in the future, Moraine continues to take things one step at a time.

“We have learned that trying to predict the future with COVID is not reliable,” said Margaret Lehner, vice president for Institutional Advancement. “We do the best we can with the facts presented to us.”

We have learned that trying to predict the future with COVID is not reliable.”

Margaret Lehner, Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Lehner explained that there has been little resistance from students and staff regarding the college’s decision to play it safe and continue wearing masks. A unanimous vote was cast by The Return to Campus Task Force Subcommittee on Wednesday in favor of keeping masking regulations.

However, students at Moraine are divided on the topic, with some being wary and others looking to be done with the pandemic.

“I kind of like wearing a mask,” said Anna Zawislak, a radiology student. “It keeps me hidden. But I feel like there isn’t really a lot of social interactions anymore. A lot of people are so over it.”

Accounting student Steven Brennan had a similar opinion, expressing his uncertainty.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up bringing the mask mandate back again,” Brennan said. “As much as I’d like it to end, it’s worth biting the bullet.”

As much as I’d like it to end it’s worth biting the bullet.”

Steven Brennan, Accounting Student at Moraine

Colton Athy, a 21-year-old criminal justice major, on the other hand, hopes the state’s repeal of the mask requirement will push Moraine to follow suit.

“I’m excited because it might lead to the campus removing mask mandates,” Athy said. “Wearing masks makes everything impersonal. You can’t even recognize people.”

When the mandate is lifted, individuals will have the freedom to choose whether or not to mask up, at least in most public places throughout Chicago.

“As for the mask mandate, I don’t have a feeling for which way Moraine will go after the mandate expires,” said communications professor Panshula Ganeshan. “Even if the mask requirement was lifted, I might still at times opt to wear one situationally. As a citizen, I am looking forward to having options.”