Head to Head: A campus-wide mask mandate does not make sense


Nicholas Herring

Students with masks sit in the designated eating area of the Student Union to eat lunch during the first week of the Fall 2021 semester. Southeastern’s campus mask mandate remains in place following Gov. Edwards’ announcement on Oct. 26 to lift the statewide mandate.

This past Tuesday, Governor John Bel Edwards made the long-overdue decision to once again repeal Louisiana’s mask mandate. 

Our university, and almost every single other university in the state for that matter, has decided to continue enforcing a mask mandate on their students. 

In an email the day after the statewide mask mandate was repealed, Dr. Crain announced that Southeastern will continue mandating masks, citing that they are bound by the University of Louisiana System’s guidance to continue mandating masks in areas of substantial transmission. 

As of November 2, the CDC still deems Tangiapohia Parish as an area of substantial transmission. In which case, they recommend mask wearing for everyone regardless of vaccination status.

Even with the CDC’s guidance, it does not make sense to require masks on campus when they are not required in almost every single other place in the state.

Despite forcing its student body to get vaccinated and the fact that Tangipahoa Parish has experienced a 54 percent decrease in new COVID cases over the past two weeks according to The New York Times, we still have to wear masks in the classroom. 

If all of that is not enough to repeal the mandate, what is? At what point will we be allowed to not wear masks? 

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, what we are trying to achieve through this continued mask mandate is not clear. 

The most frustrating part of the entire mask debate is how frivolously the idea of universal required masking is treated.  

Masking is not normal, and we have to stop pretending that it is. It is almost dehumanizing and completely contradictory to the way human beings interact with each other. It should only be done in extreme circumstances. 

Many would agree that the very beginning of this pandemic justified mask-wearing and constituted an extreme circumstance. But now, given the fact that there are three vaccines available and cases are falling rapidly in our state, it is hard to make a consistent argument that masking is still necessary.  

At a certain point, we have to accept a certain amount of risk associated with COVID-19. We cannot completely upend our normal lives and stay hyper-obsessed with health forever. There is only so long we can go wearing face masks and eating with plastic shields between us. 

There are profound consequences to these continued restrictions in our daily lives. In part as a result of the social isolation these restrictions have caused, we are now in the midst of a mental health crisis.

According to a study from Boston University, depression has tripled in U.S. adults since COVID-19.  27.8% of U.S. adults have reported depression symptoms within the last year, compared to just 8.5% before the pandemic. The study also predicts that these symptoms and a rise in depression rates will be long-lasting. 

We can’t keep pretending that hiding our faces from each other has absolutely no effect on our mental health. The sociological effects of normalized mask-wearing far outweigh the potential of catching COVID given the current rate of transmission. 

It is paramount that we take a critical step to return to normalcy. I ask the university to examine the available data of COVID in our state and repeal our mask mandate.


Editor’s note: This opinion piece is one of two articles in a head-to-head series. Read the other opinion piece here.

Correction: A previous version of this article claimed that Tangipahoa Parish was deemed as an area of Moderate Transmission by the CDC. Since publishing, the CDC has again deemed Tangipahoa Parish as an area of Substantial Transmission. The article has been corrected to reflect this information.