Are Masks Needed?

Vaccination rate and past data leads against mandate

Chad Woerner, Staff Writer

In light of the spread of the delta variant throughout the US in recent weeks, on July 27th, the CDC recommended that masks, regardless of vaccinated status, be worn in indoor spaces in counties with high rates of COVID-19 transmission. However, the Upper School should suspend its mask mandate immediately: vaccination rates at Blake’s upper school far exceed the national average, high case counts arenít translating to high hospitalization/death rates, and masks take away from a complete educational experience. 

     A slew of evidence suggests that vaccination rates in the Blake community are markedly higher than the general population and likely hover around 90% of the Upper School Community. 98% of faculty and staff indicated that they were fully vaccinated in a spring 2021 survey; in July, Head of School Dr. Anne Stavney wrote that we know nearly every Blake employee has received the vaccination. Student turnouts at vaccination events held at Blake’s Middle School campus in the spring were strong, with hundreds of inoculations occurring amongst students aged 12-16.

     Hospitalization data from earlier flu outbreaks in the 2010s show worse outcomes than the current covid outbreaks and yet masks were scarcely worn at those times.  

     Risk of death after hospitalization does appear to be slightly higher with covid than with the flu, but the low risk of hospitalization in the first place for fully vaccinated individuals outweighs that difference. Sure, the flu vaccine is much less effective than the covid vaccines, but that’s besides the point. Minnesota flu vaccination rates in recent years have failed to reach as high a percentage as covid vaccines this year, but that’s besides the point. But what explains why masks weren’t mandated in 2017, 2018 and even more moderate flu years by Blake?     

     My point isn’t that we shouldn’t be making a small sacrifice for the greater good. But the current preventive measures aside from masks in the Blake community outweigh the troubles caused by them.