Harvard-Westlake announces mask mandates to be reduced

Harvard-Westlake+Community+Health+Office+makes+changes+to+the+mask+mandate+on+March+9.

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Harvard-Westlake Community Health Office makes changes to the mask mandate on March 9.

Harvard-Westlake (HW) has reduced the mask guidelines regarding the requirements of wearing a mask indoors, said an e-mail sent by the HW Community Health Office (CHO) on March 9.

On March 11, Governor of Los Angeles Gavin Newson announced that indoor masking for schools in L.A. will no longer be mandated, allowing for the LA County Department of Public Health to follow these protocols regarding indoor masking. 

Considering the diminishing numbers of COVID-19 cases on both campuses, the HW Community Health Office announced in an email that as of March 12, masking indoors would be highly recommended, but not required. In the e-mail, the Community Health Office also addressed possible concerns of students and parents and the continuation of individual PCR testing.

This decision came following weeks of COVID-19 individual testing and required indoor masking on campus. The e-mail said that individual PCR testing, which has been in place since early February, yielded “case rates [that] remained.. in the low single digits”. Additionally, HW’s vaccine and booster mandates, which require students to be fully vaccinated and recommend students eligible to take the booster shot, have strengthened the community’s protection against the virus.

The school expressed its understanding of students’ and faculty’ decisions in the e-mail, underlining that the decision to keep their masks may be met with “trepidation by some who remain concerned about COVID-19.” As expected, the new masking protocols were received with mixed responses. Some students were ecstatic about the prospect of ridding themselves of the stifling and bothersome masks, while others were nervous about the newfound vulnerability of their peers not having a mask on. 

This year, lifting weights could also be uncomfortable and when the masks are too small, they pull on your ears,” Avery Kim ‘25 said.

However, students expressed worry about the possible spiking of COVID-19 cases this might cause. 

“I think since the announcement was made that masks were optional, inside… I was surprised to see so many students still wearing their masks. You know, I was half-expecting students to start taking off their masks as soon as they could. I feel like there’s this ‘tread-lightly’ [mindset], since the masks have had such an influence on our daily lives,” Ninth-Grade Dean Betsy Ilg said

Aware of such controversy, faculty and staff do their best to remind students that working together and remaining united is crucial to the gaiety of the HW community in such troubling times. 

At a class meeting, Ilg spoke to emphasize that students all had different reasons for their personal decisions that should be respected by their peers. She added that students should be aware of their friends’ amenity around unmasked people and should watch for cues of discomfort “verbal or not”.

“It makes me happy to say students are actually being very thoughtful and looking out for and being respectful to others,” Ilg said.

Many teachers also took class time to remind students of the new guidelines and how they will choose to operate in the future.

With the new changes to the mask mandate, CHO hopes to keep positive COVID cases on campus to a limit.