It is strange and difficult to remember back to the beginning of the pandemic for it feels like we have always been living through a pandemic. At the start of the pandemic when most did not see Covid-19 as a real threat to our lives, but that quickly changed when the situation in the U.S. got worse resulting in students from all over the country being sent home. The moment people were told to return to home in the middle of the semester, was the time I realized that this virus would disrupt our lives in ways that most have ever experienced. After most people in Geneseo went home due to the pandemic last year, I stayed in my off-campus apartment to avoid going home to Buffalo which is a more densely populated area and also to reduce the chance of my family members at home getting the virus. It was not until the summer after that semester, did the CDC encourage the use of masks to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Quickly after the CDC’s recommendations and guidelines, did businesses and public places require that masks be worn. I remember using the blue medical masks when the guidelines were put in place to any public place or business that I would go to over the summer. When classes resumed in the fall semester of the following year, I remember that the school over the summer took action to fight against the pandemic by putting in medical masks dispensers and hand sanitizer stations all around campus. The steps that school took to combat the pandemic was to ensure that people were safe on campus so that students could continue with their education. These steps that the school took was also my first glimpse at how our education system and our government was going to deal with this pandemic. Along with weekly testing for the virus that SUNY Geneseo implemented, the school also provided students with personal hand sanitizer and reusable masks. Since I live near campus and I am occasionally there, I always have both the reusable mask and blue disposable mask on me at all times. The dark blue reusable mask that the school provided for students was a perceptive idea for the disposable masks as efficient and useful as they do pose an environmental threat as they are too often left on the street. When the CDC put mask guidelines into place, they were criticized for not putting the recommendation in sooner and that this hesitation produced widespread mistrust of face masks among the public. Even after the guidelines were put into place, it was recommended that since there was a shortage of face masks and medical masks that the general public should make their own reusable masks. The reusable mask that I use is a dark blue cloth mask that I got from the school which is made out of multiple layers of cotton woven fabrics. I chose to wear the reusable cotton mask so I do not have to constantly use disposable masks and these masks are more durable than the disposable ones. This idea of having the public make their own reusable masks was ideal because our hospitals and medical professionals at the beginning lacked the proper PPE as we saw stories on the news of nurses and doctors using garbage bags to protect themselves. I also saw stories of this phase of mask crafting being implemented as regular people starting making homemade masks for medical professionals as well their neighbors. Even after the shortage of medical masks, people still continued to wear their homemade masks or artistic masks that would throughout this pandemic be part of our fashion history. Spending my last year and a half through this pandemic and living at school gave me a firsthand experience how our education system decided to handle the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was not sure what the school was doing was right or wrong because this was a new experience for me and for everyone. Whether or not students should be sent home was an important question, but the more we understood about this virus, the more we understood that what we all had to and sacrifice we would have to make was more than we all thought. It is important to look at how our education systems handle the pandemic for it is a sign and projection of how consequential the government and the people feel this pandemic is, which results in how long we must suffer through this tragic time. In the beginning, all of our institutions were not ready to handle a pandemic which includes our schools, hospitals, and businesses. However, after a slow understanding we began to put in place testing sites and eventually vaccination sites. Over the summer, schools all over the country needed students to submit a negative test result before returning to school, then they put in place a testing center on the SUNY Geneseo campus in Sturges hall where we would all get tested every week. At first the covid cases were on the rise and I don’t think people were ready to adjust to a school while being in a global pandemic. All of the steps that the school administration and the community took to combat the coronavirus allowed students to come back to school where some people may not have conditions at home that correspond to a suitable work environment. The access to masks, testing, and also vaccination also allowed everybody to have access to personal protective equipment as well as being comfortable to still have the opportunity to take classes on campus and online. Everything that was done to prevent the school from being overwhelmed by the virus was not perfect and there may have been things that may have improved the situation, but everything that was done was done to protect students and staff. As people around the country began to become more aware of the pandemic and get vaccinated, we see a decrease in the fashion trend of masks as people become more comfortable in the groups that they are comfortable with. I believe that the fashion trend of masks was one out of pure necessity and that people will stop wearing masks, even though wearing them would significantly decrease airborne illnesses in general.
(fig.5) Picture of me gardening & wearing a mask