Readers’ Forum: Masking our identities

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COVID-19 has affected each of us in our own individual ways. For many people my age, this pandemic has fought to take away experiences that are supposedly rights of passage such as our senior year of high school or our freshman college experience.

This past year, I’ve had multiple supervisors express their condolences that COVID-19 came during some of the most exciting years of my life. They always said to me, “don’t worry, everything will get better once the vaccine comes out.” This hasn’t been the case. COVID- 19 continues to affect my life every day through BYU’s current mask mandate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “evidence demonstrates that the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are both efficacious and effective against symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, including severe forms of the disease.” If the vaccine has been proven successful, then students should not have to wear masks on top of it. I have been fully vaccinated since June 30, and it has been frustrating that I have had to wear a mask despite my vaccination status. 

Identifying the emotions of those around us is an important part of effective communication, and effective communication is essential to having pleasant conversations with others. While wearing masks, it is difficult to read other’s emotions because we can’t fully see one another’s faces. Because of this facial barrier, it’s been difficult to make friends and connect with my peers because I haven’t been able to recognize them. If I saw someone outside of class whom I had had a conversation with, I wouldn’t even recognize them. 

I am not alone in this struggle. I have had multiple professors and teacher aides express how difficult it is to teach students when they can’t see their faces. Even when they have a picture roll of their students, they are unable to tell which student is which. I had a professor hand out masks with a clear plastic shield so that her student’s mouths were visible. Even though these masks looked ridiculous, the students wore them and by the end of class my professor beamed and exclaimed, “it was so nice to see your smiling faces!” This trial has been difficult for professors and students alike. Despite our best efforts, these masks are robbing us of the opportunity to truly interact. 

The First Presidency issued a statement on Aug. 12 urging members of the Church to get vaccinated and wear masks when needed, and BYU’s mask mandate was established in response to this request from our prophet. I am a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I will do my best to follow the guidance of our Latter-day prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. I will continue to wear a mask until the mask mandate is lifted. Until it is lifted, I encourage everyone on campus to get fully vaccinated. If everyone on campus gets fully vaccinated, I believe that the administrators of BYU and authorities of the Church will feel more comfortable lifting the mask mandate. Once the mask mandate is lifted, we can finally enjoy each other’s company like we are supposed to.

—Katie Bingham

Idaho Falls, Idaho

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