Mask wearing shows inconsistencies: When do we need them and when do we not?

When it comes to COVID-19, there are so many great things we have done to protect ourselves and other people: wearing masks, social distancing, getting tested regularly and more. But as long as we have been in this pandemic, there have been inconsistencies in our health and safety practices.

One big inconsistency I want to point out is around mask wearing. I have noticed there are times when wearing masks is required in one place, but not required in another place. Or certain people have to wear masks where others do not.

Many of us may have experienced this while dining out. When you step inside a restaurant, you have to wear masks, but as soon as you sit down they can come off and you’re “safe” from COVID-19. Some places do have socially-distanced table placements, but others don’t, which is inconsistent.

An inconsistency I see on campus is in athletics. One thing that Park University has done really well is testing its athletes every week, as well as ensuring that teams only play other schools that test regularly. However, each team doesn’t follow the same practices during play. For example, the Park indoor volleyball teams consistently wear masks during practices and games, but the teams they face are very inconsistent.

This concern around mask-wearing during indoor sports is reasonable, given epidemiologists’ consensus that the virus spreads more easily indoors due to circulating air and the limitations of HVAC systems. In contrast, outdoor sports during COVID-19 are likely less risky since particles can dissipate into the air more easily. But the guidelines from Park are the same, regardless of how the sport is played.

I play on the beach volleyball team. We play doubles, so there are only two players on each side of the court. Despite being outside and coming into contact with a small number of teammates and competitors, we are still advised to wear masks while playing. It is understandable, however, it almost gets to be too much.

I am always pulling my mask up and down in order to catch my breath from playing hard and being out in the heat. I am touching the same exact ball the other teams are touching and then, without washing my hands, I am touching my mask and my face. Also, we room with our partners in the hotel, and don’t have to wear a mask while we’re sleeping, so wearing a mask right next to each other while we play is not consistent.

If we are getting tested every week and play other schools that do the same, it seems like a very, very low risk if we don’t wear masks during play.

I am not saying skip the masks completely, but I think there are some instances where they are not absolutely necessary. Further, we can enjoy our sport more, especially outside, without having to worry about breathing through a mask.

As we learn how to deal with this and try to find some normalcy, there are times where we can still be safe, but enjoy some normal activities, such as playing outdoor sports without masks, when we test regularly. Maybe there are more things we can find normalcy in as we keep getting through this pandemic.