An Indoor Mask Mandate is Not Enough


Annika Bjorklund

The stands at the homecoming game were tightly packed, making the spread of germs easy.

As the Boulder High homecoming game began, students filed into the stands and crammed within inches of each other. Along with their spirit, the Panthers brought all of their germs and happily spewed them everywhere as they chanted and cheered. The stands at Recht Field are COVID breeding grounds that come to life every Friday night. The mask mandate was the right decision, and should be expanded further to outdoor events like sports games. 

The vaccine is an exciting development that has been authorized for those 12 and older since May. Being vaccinated has provided a set of new freedoms and a seeming return to normal. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for everyone who is vaccinated. According to the CDC, people who have compromised immune systems may not be protected by the vaccine even if they are fully vaccinated. In addition, vaccines are only available to those who are 12 and older. This means that all elementary school students and many middle schoolers are ineligible for the vaccine. Many students at Boulder High likely have siblings who aren’t vaccinated, even if they themselves are. Furthermore, not all high school students are vaccinated and many of the unvaccinated don’t have their parent’s consent to get the inoculation. Wearing masks in schools is meant to protect these populations who cannot access the vaccine. 

Although all of this may seem irrelevant to you, it’s not. We’ve been told that COVID spreads indoors and going outside removes the risk. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be more wrong. Though outdoor environments do decrease the spread of the virus, this is only if social distancing is in place. The stands at football and soccer games do not meet these criteria in the slightest. Students tightly pack themselves into the stands to loudly cheer on the Panthers. This is all in good fun and is a wonderful sign of a post-pandemic world, except for the fact that we aren’t living in a post-pandemic world yet. Boulder County mandated masks indoors on September 3rd due to high transmission rates. Breakthrough cases are getting more and more common. Moreover, the stands of a football game don’t follow federal recommendations. Students are packed closely together and yelling produces larger respiratory droplets that remain in the air for longer periods of time than speaking at a normal volume or breathing. With everyone yelling within inches of each other without masks or other protections in place, the risk of COVID transmission is high. The CDC recommends wearing a mask in crowded outdoor spaces even if you’re vaccinated. 

Furthermore, mask mandates at outdoor events are becoming more and more common. Boise State University in Idaho mandated masks at football games. An outdoor mask mandate for events where distancing is not possible went into effect in Oregon at the end of August. Washington state mandated masks at large outdoor events starting September 13th. 

As the pandemic has progressed, new variants have continued to emerge and each one has been slightly more dangerous than the last. Currently, the Delta variant poses an increased risk to the entire community, vaccinated and not. According to an article from Yale Medicine, the Delta variant is the predominant variant in the United States and its far more contagious than past variants. Children and adults under 50 are two and a half times more likely to become infected with the variant. There have also been breakthrough infections in those who are vaccinated.

Boulder High School prides itself on its community. So, I encourage you to contribute to your community in a positive way by not only consistently wearing your mask above your nose and mouth in the hallways, but also by wearing a mask at football games, soccer games, and other crowded events. Additionally, I urge Boulder Valley School District to expand the mask mandate to include outdoor sporting events. You might be protected, but your younger siblings, unvaccinated friends, and the immunocompromised population aren’t.