Safety step or old habit?: How views about mask wearing have changed over time


Ryan Vance

PV students starting their day in class.

Ryan Vance, Business Manager

As the two year anniversary of COVID-19 approaches, Americans seem to have become accustomed to the once new routine of mask wearing.

Wearing a mask was completely foreign to a majority of the population two years ago. It only seemed to be practiced by doctors and painters in order to protect themselves from harmful substances. Then, as COVID-19 struck, many Americans were forced to wear masks in public to protect not only themselves, but those around them. 

It was a big change to the way people viewed others. Some Americans did anything possible to avoid wearing a mask because of a seemingly endless list of things it got in the way of. A factor that added to the common distaste of masks was how it made breathing a challenge during everyday activities. Another common complaint was wearing a mask makes it harder to recognize those around you. 

Some formed opinions about others based upon their mask wearing habits. “Anti-masker” is a term for someone who opposed wearing a mask during the pandemic. Anti-maskers have been condemned for putting those around them at risk by not taking proper precautionary measures to stop the spread of the virus.

The controversy of whether one chose to wear a mask was a very big deal at the start of the pandemic because the world did not know very much about COVID or the way it spread. An article published on March 13, 2020 by Sheri Fink talked about COVID numbers in the United States. “As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die,” wrote Fink.

The world was just starting to grasp the fact that COVID would change everyone’s lives for years to come. It was newer and scarier than it is today. 200,000 people dying seemed like a crazy amount, let alone 1.7 million. A lot of Americans started to wear a mask because of these numbers and government regulation.

Since that 2020 article, the threat posed by COVID has become less urgent. Recently, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ended COVID-19 disaster policies. Many people are vaccinated and are better able to combat the virus, which has led to looser masking regulations. 

It is now viewed as socially acceptable to leave the house without grabbing a mask in Iowa. Today, it is hard to remember who wears a mask and who does not. The face mask has become normalized at PV, and students can have their own purposes for wearing one.

Senior Ethan Kilcoin said their reason for wearing a mask has not changed since day one. “I don’t want to get COVID” said Kilcoin. “I am not worried about other illnesses.” Masking up in public is one of the ways he keeps his body safe from the new virus. 

While COVID is still a relatively new disease, it has become part of our daily lives. People are becoming used to the threat and taking actions like vaccinating and wearing masks in public in order to keep themselves and others safe. 

As time passes, so do the rules and mandates viewed as correct at one point in time. One thing to be sure of is as times change, humans will always work to adjust to these changes. Wearing a mask is just one of the latest ordinances students and humans as a whole have adapted to.