The Mask Police: A Conversation on COVID-19 Anxiety and Agency Over Your Body

Lee Health

Rachel Dobkin, Business and Culture Editor |

Although being back in-person has brought a lot of morale to our school, I think many of us have acknowledged that it comes at a price to our mental health. Many students, including myself, have felt COVID-19 anxiety about being in the classroom.

Although studies have shown that COVID-19 is less likely to spread in the classroom and more likely to spread off-campus, it’s still nerve-wracking being back in-person. I think what makes it harder is the social implications that come with the enactment of agency over your body. Are you going to be the one to tell someone to put their mask all the way over their nose? Are you going to be the one to tell your professor to be more accommodating after you’ve missed a week from school due to being in quarantine? No one wants to be the COVID police, and no one should have to, but sadly, some people are less considerate than others, so you are forced to decide between an awkward conversation or your health.

I like to think of fighting COVID-19 with layers of protection. The vaccine is only one layer, but not the only one as we’ve seen with the Delta Variant. The vaccine can protect you from getting severely ill, but you can still get the disease even with the vaccine. The mask is another layer, one I’ve seen far too many people not take advantage of. Yes, it’s school policy to wear one, but you should want to wear one for another layer of protection for both you and others. A mask worn below your nose is not a mask worn at all. Did you put your underwear on backward today? Hopefully not. So, why would you not wear your mask properly?

If you knew me, you would know that I am one to speak my mind. I’m a Communications major, so I’ve learned how to have a conversation with someone. I hold a high position in student government, so I know a thing or two about public speaking. But I’m also human and there’s an overwhelming feeling of awkwardness when I must politely ask someone to follow guidelines set by the school for everyone’s safety. I’m trying to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable but let’s face it, being an advocate for your body is hard. Although I’d rather not be the COVID police, I know it’s something I must do.

Telling your peers is one thing. You feel like a pest. You think to yourself, “they are going to think I’m overreacting, maybe I should just let it go.” But that isn’t fair to your health. You should be able to stand up for your body without feeling shame. Talking to faculty and staff is even worse. There’s a power dynamic at play here. Who are you to tell your professor how to run their classroom? Although you can tell yourself that you are the most important part of the college therefore you do have the agency to stand up for yourself and your academics, it’s hard. They have way more “visible power” than you.

At the end of the day, you must stand up for your health. It’s hard to believe that it will never be awkward to tell someone to do something, even if you are in the right. You might think to yourself, “I don’t have the authority to say anything.” But you do. You always have the authority to stand up for yourself. So, next time you contemplate whether you should say something, say it. So, what if it’s awkward? A little awkwardness is worth your health. The more people that have these conversations, the less awkward it will hopefully start to become.

If you are someone with social anxiety or it’s just too hard for you to say something, stand up for yourself through a vessel. Ask your friend to say something on your behalf. They will want to help you because they care about your body as well. On the flip side, let’s all remember to be considerate and respectful of everyone’s health. Wear your mask properly. Accommodate your students. Be a nice human being because although it might not matter to you, it makes a world of difference to someone else. It doesn’t take anything from someone to wear a piece of cloth over their face, but it gives everyone a little less COVID-19 anxiety. So do it!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.