Life at Lincoln without a mask mandate


Tabitha Lee

Lincoln hallway in between classes.

After two years of COVID safety measures, Oregon officials ended the mask mandate in public schools, making masks optional. The mandate began July 1, 2020, and required residents to wear facial protection in all public places, including in schools. The mandate ended on Mar. 14, 2022, a week before spring break. After most of the school year wearing masks, the Lincoln community showed mixed responses, with many students and staff choosing to continue wearing masks.

Masks remaining may have remained at high levels, because of the upcoming spring break and family trips as a result of the lifted COVID restrictions. According to ABC News, previous COVID-19 outbreaks in major American cities have been fueled by university and college spring breaks. Several students were concerned about the timing of the mandate end. 

“I thought the decision [to unmask] before spring break was interesting and unexpected as the majority of the cases and fast increases in case numbers come from spring break,” said junior Colby Herman. 

Many Lincoln students traveled over the break, increasing the possibility for the spread of infection. Junior Parker Solodky was also concerned about the timing of the end of the mandate.

“They [ended the mandate] two weeks too early, but after spring break it would have been safe in my opinion,” said Solodky. 

Though the decision to unmask may have come too quickly for some, for others, it couldn’t come fast enough. “My mental health relies on being able to interact and socialize with people, and wearing masks can really put a dent in that,” said freshman Elle Sullivan. 

However, evidence has shown that masks coming off also has created anxiety for some teens. ​​According to the New York Times, no longer wearing masks has unlocked new fears surrounding being judged for their appearance, being aligned with certain political views or getting a family member sick. 

The maskless experience has changed the social landscape. For many, the awkwardness of masks has been replaced by the awkwardness of seeing their peers’ faces for the first time.

“It is easier to concentrate without a mask, but I definitely think that it is extremely difficult to know what to say, after seeing [other students faces] for the first time in two years,” said Herman.