Butler’s Mask Mandate: Finding empathy in times of crisis

Graphic designed by Haley Morkert.

KENNEDI ULMAN | OPINION COLUMNIST | kulman@butler.edu

530 days have passed since March 13, 2020 — the day that the United States declared a state of emergency concerning COVID-19. A bit later, mask mandates were put into place and, at least where I lived — Noblesville — people seemed to follow orders. Of course, good things come to an end.

Pandemic fatigue, the feeling of being worn out by COVID-19 restrictions, has become another formidable enemy to this country. With over 37 million total cases, 600,000 deaths and nearly 200,000 new cases just this past week, we are nowhere near overcoming COVID-19. 

We are slowly drifting into our second fall with the virus — this time with new variants running rampant. This is exactly why Butler, following recent CDC guidance, reinstated a campus-wide mask mandate for this upcoming semester. 

Like any other announcement, the poor soul behind the university’s Instagram account had to take the brunt of it all in the comment section. The Butler community had a lot to say, ranging from praises to threats of withdrawing from classes. One person claimed that Butler has become a “police state.” 

A running theme throughout the negative comments is that Butler is caving in and that they “forced students to get the vaccine so what was the point?” 

News flash: Butler has not acquiesced to some communist agenda formulated by the Biden administration. They are looking at the fact that COVID-19 is worse in Marion County now than this time last year in large part due to the Delta variant.

Last spring, it was looking like the country was making enough progress so that we could start the fall 2021 semester without pandemic restrictions. Over the summer, things took a turn for the worse, so the mandate is undoubtedly frustrating. 

However, if the university did not make this decision, the consequences could be catastrophic. COVID-19 vaccines offer a considerable amount of protection from the virus, even the dominant Delta variant, but it does not make you immune to infection. 

Wearing a mask is simply another layer of protection for yourself and others. 

William Blakely, a senior sports media major, explained why he continues to wear a mask and wants others to do the same.

“First of all, COVID is a very brutal disease that has affected a lot of people and even taken out a lot of people,” Blakely said, “Reason number two is the fact that my mom [is] immunocompromised. She has this brutal disease called sarcoidosis and it has affected her lungs.”  

Blakely commutes to campus and worries about possibly exposing his mother to COVID-19.

“There’s certain stuff that she can’t do without getting short of breath due to the fact that her lungs are affected,” Blakely said, “The fact that she’s considered to be immunocompromised and seeing what COVID has done to people who are considered immunocompromised… it’s very scary to me, especially to someone who loves their mother dearly.”

Over the past year and a half, this pandemic has sadly shifted from a public health concern to a political game for some. Though this is definitely not a new phenomenon, showing party loyalty has become more important than saving lives.

Blakely has a message for people who don’t want to wear a mask.

“Just have the empathy to wear a mask for the sake of others,” Blakely said. “I’m pretty sure that they don’t want to go through what others go through. If [others] were in my shoes, they would be asking the same thing.”

At the end of the day, wearing masks is not about you and how you feel. It’s about keeping yourself and the people around you safe.

And, anyways, if President Biden was trying to force some sort of mind control device onto Americans — besides the vaccine obviously — I don’t think a cloth mask from Target would qualify. 

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