In pre-pandemic times, you more than likely would not have given much care or thought to someone across the classroom sneezing or coughing, other than saying the polite “bless you.” Following COVID-19, a cough draws the quick turn of heads with looks of judgment and anxiety.

Masks have been around since the 17th century, according to an article published by The Lancet. They have been used for medical, criminal and environmental reasons. In fact, they have been used as a precautionary item in various countries, like in China, even before the pandemic.

I believe that masks have helped to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. If we don’t enforce masks, more variants of the virus will come, like BA.2. These new variants of COVID-19 have spiked my paranoia, creating my new mindset of being able to imagine the germs that lie upon each item and person. They can contaminate whatever is in their path, and seeing people come into contact with them gives me an appalled view of hands and germs in general.

Recently, Florida has lowered the mask mandate, not enforcing it in schools and stores, though people still have free will to wear them if they feel comfortable. I personally feel that this was not a good decision because the goal of mask-wearing is to minimize the spread of COVID-19. While the rest of the world has attempted to stop the spread, Florida is increasing the number of cases.

Using a mask can be very useful for limiting the spread of minor diseases in close contact places, like in buses, airports, airplanes, Uber rides and coffee shops. I personally don’t feel comfortable when people next to me have a thick cough and I’m next to them, knowing I’m inhaling their germs and becoming at risk of getting sick.

Masks could also be a great benefit in the restaurant business because workers could wear masks in the kitchen, ensuring the safety of customers. Just the thought of knowing that the workers have talked over my food and maybe coughed while handling it makes me concerned for my own health.

An additional thing that is concerning is the asymptomatic people that are not aware that they have COVID and are spreading it to people unknowingly – like me. I was unaware of having COVID and had visited 3 of my family members, causing my mom and sister to get infected because of the long period of time that I had been next to them.

Currently, the CDC is minimizing the wearing of masks and believe that the vaccine is the sole solution to this pandemic. I write this article as a warning and a caution that the virus is still in the air and if people continue being this laid back, more variants will come, making this pandemic an endless circle.