Masked and unmasked: Riverside perspectives after the mask mandate

By: Isaiah Heinz and Taliyah Cooper

After the removal of the mask mandate, the number of people wearing masks has gone down significantly. At Riverside, there is a wide range of people who choose to wear or not wear masks based on their personal preferences. 

Dr. Woods-Weeks greets students walking into school. Photo by Vann Fugikawa.

Principal Gloria Woods-Weeks feels good about the current state of COVID but still wears a mask sometimes. 

“Sometimes I have to move from behind the mask to breathe,” she said.

Principal Woods-Weeks isn’t worried about COVID, but she would happily wear a mask again. 

“To be honest, I really am not [worried]. I feel safe. I’ve been vaccinated…but I would, without a doubt, [wear a mask again].” 

Media coordinator Jenna Wine has decided not to wear a mask, she feels better about COVID this year. 

“I feel more confident and calm about [COVID],” she said. “I feel like the beginning of this school year was a reset.” 

Ms. Wine wants students to be safe and to wear masks if they think they’re sick or have COVID. 

“If you do think you have COVID still don’t go out, don’t see people, and wear masks if you have to go out,” she said. 

Wine has been vaccinated and plans to wear a mask if she needs to do so again. 

Ms. Wine in the library on throwback day. Photo by Isaiah Heinz.
Mr. Tokonitz outside of the engineering hall. Photo by Isaiah Heinz.

Due to his concern for COVID, engineering teacher Adam Tokonitz is continuing to wear a mask this semester. 

“I feel safe being in the building, however, I do recognize that there is still a concern for COVID, so I’m electing to still wear a mask,” Tokonitz said. 

Tokonitz is going to keep wearing a mask because he knows people who’ve gotten COVID and wants to keep himself and the others around him safe. 

“I wore it to benefit those around me, but I also am continuing to wear the mask because a few of my colleagues have gotten COVID since the start of the school year,” he said. “They started without a mask and some of them have recently put them back on.” 

Dr. Okun has decided not to wear a mask. 

“I personally feel safe, but I also have an understanding that it is still super fluid,” Okun said. 

He believes that students shouldn’t be mandated to wear masks. 

“I do feel like we’re at a level in Durham, in this school, where students shouldn’t be mandated to wear masks,” Okun said. “I feel the number of masks being worn are significantly lower, not just at school but everywhere.” 

Dr. Okun in class. Photo by Isaiah Heinz.
Eli Pope posing. Photo by Isaiah Heinz.

Junior Eli Pope feels safe, too. He has a positive outlook on the current state of COVID,

“I’d say two years after the start of the pandemic, I’d say I feel pretty safe,” Pope said. “I’ve lost family to COVID, so, it was rough, but I feel safer now, especially with the vaccine rollout.” 

Pope believes that COVID boosters will become an annual shot that some people will get and others won’t. 

“I think that it will come to the point where it’s just gonna turn into another flu, where you just get your flu shot every year,” he said. “Some people do some, people don’t. If you get the flu it sucks really bad, if you get the vaccine, it’s not as bad.” 

Though he feels safe not wearing a mask, under any circumstances he would put it back on. 

“Even if a student came up to me and was like ‘Hey, I don’t feel safe around you, can you please put a mask on?’, I would,” he said.

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