Caroline Willbourne

It’s been almost two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has had a huge impact on our everyday lives and has changed life as we know it. As the fall semester ends and winter break starts — it’s important to remember to continue being safe when in public, even as we go back home.

As of right now, Wake, Durham and Orange counties are still mandating masks in all indoor public spaces. The counties feel as though they haven’t reached the right requirements to be able to lift the mandate. They said they will release the mask mandate once the community’s spread has lowered to their target level. So for now, it looks like masks will be staying. That goes for NC State’s campus too

I think the fact that NC State is going to keep the mask mandate for the spring semester is a good thing and the right call. Not only because of the fact not everyone is vaccinated on campus, but also because wearing a mask is a good way to protect yourself from both COVID-19 and the flu since flu season is starting. 

It is pretty exhausting that we've been wearing masks for almost two years, but if that’s what keeps me and others protected, I don’t mind wearing one. Personally, I actually feel a lot better knowing I’m wearing a mask indoors since I know it protects me from getting COVID-19 because no one likes getting sick, especially because you want to be able to relax during the break and not have to be stuck with the annoyance of not feeling well. 

Speaking of winter break, it’s still important to be mindful of others, no matter where you end up going for the break. People back in your hometown may be not wearing masks anymore since maybe the mask mandate has been lifted. For example, places in North Carolina like Raleigh, Garner, Rolesville and Zebulon still have mask mandates in place while Wake Forest, Apex, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs and Wendell don’t. Be sure that you know if your hometown has a mask mandate or not and if not, remember to continue to be safe not only for the sake of yourself but for others. 

Either way though, I feel like we all need to make sure we’re still wearing masks indoors even if we’re vaccinated or if the mask mandate is lifted in our towns. I personally still wear my mask even though I’ve been fully vaccinated since May because I don’t know if others in public are vaccinated and if they’re sick or not. I just want to do my best to protect myself and those around me, because you never know who could be at high risk, so I strongly advise others to do the same.

While wearing a mask is a great way to protect ourselves, I also understand there are some scenarios where no one wants to wear a mask, like your Thanksgiving family dinner. To avoid spreading diseases in such scenarios, there are a number of small steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe.

First, try getting tested before and after meeting with friends and family. This is a great resource available for free at multiple locations including NC State’s campus and will allow you to enjoy the holidays with a great peace of mind as you know for sure you don’t have COVID-19. Second, avoid large gatherings if you can as it gets harder to keep up with everyone’s safety precautions as the number of people you interact with grows. Lastly, if you haven’t already, consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine or booster, especially as they have now been FDA approved.

Overall, I think it’s super important that we all continue to stay safe, especially now that the flu season is starting. We have all lived with the impact COVID-19 has made on our lives for almost two years, and we’ve almost made it through it as long as we continue to stay safe and encourage others to do the same. It’s super important to prioritize the safety of yourself and others so everyone can enjoy the holiday season without worrying and staying healthy.