By CAYLEE HANNA, LEXIE SMITH AND ALYSSA FANT
Editor-in-Chief and Staff Reporters
Mask-wearing will soon be optional at Amarillo College. Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, the AC president, announced the planned change after Texas Governor Greg Abbott rescinded the statewide mask ordinance. In place of mask mandates, Lowery-Hart is encouraging staff and students to get the COVID vaccine.
Lowery-Hart explained in the upcoming change in an email. “Our community has done a remarkable job distributing the vaccine,” he said. “We must still be vigilant and we’ve proven that when we put our collective safety first, our community responds. I look forward to being mask optional on April 26.”
Although wearing masks will become optional, some students plan to keep wearing their masks after the new policy goes into effect.
“I do not wear a mask because I am sick, I wear a mask because I am afraid for other people who are sick and/or elderly. I am protecting them from me,” Taevy Nammathao, a psychology major, said.
Sierra Ochoa, a music education major, agreed. “Personally I am still going to wear my mask for my safety and those around me. We have to think of ourselves in these situations and also those around us.”
Other students said they are conflicted about mask wearing. “I think that masks can be helpful and it has definitely prevented some of my friends and me from getting COVID at certain times, when being exposed. Although, I have read a study, pretty recently that our masks are lowering our immunity to other diseases, which is not good,” Kate Pybus, a mass media major, said.
Some students and staff members say that not only will they continue masking, they are now wearing two masks instead of just one. This follows a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to double up on masks to avoid new strains of the virus. The CDC said cloth masks may not have enough layers to be effective. They urge people to wear a cloth mask over their surgical masks or wear a thicker mask and make sure the mask is kept tight around their face with no air holes.
Clemence Mayfield, certified nursing assistant instructor at AC, said she understands the reasoning behind double masking. “I think it is a great idea to have two masks. They say it will cover a person 95% from the virus,” she said.
Rather than choosing to wear two masks, many students are relying on getting vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID. “I am confident in the efficiency of the vaccine, especially because I took a biology class and my professor kind of broke-down some of the statistics from it,” Joshie Ruiz, a business major, said. Ruiz said the vaccine is helping life get back to normal. “I think people are more OK with going out. I know that I feel better, personally,”
Josh McCormack, an applied sports science major, disagreed, saying there’s still a long way to go.
“Vaccines will eventually help prevent the spread of COVID. Although, there hasn’t been enough research done yet,” he said. “I think that many people are still very scared to get out. There are probably more people getting out than at the beginning of this, but not a ton more.”