Families enjoy spring break with loosened mask mandates

Joaquin Figueroa, Reporter

Senior Gracie Norton and freshman Millie Norton pose with their family on a spring break trip to Arizona. (Gracie Norton)

For a week in mid-March, students traveled long distances to the warm climates of Puerto Rico and California, and some stayed in Chicago and enjoyed their time out in the city with family and friends. Compared to the isolated, cold and depressing spring breaks of 2020 and 2021, this year’s spring break was filled with freedom and joy.

Loosened mask mandates allowed students and families to travel more, experience more activities and communicate better with others this year compared to last.

Junior Shouri Dharanipragada traveled to California to visit Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, and Santa Clara University. He noted the difference between college visits for students last year with how they were unable to visit campuses.

At the time, masks in California were required for public transit, stations, terminals, airports, healthcare and other facilities. Many campuses also imposed restrictions.

“I think the difference between the current Senior Class and me is that there were actually students on campus and you could actually tell student life,” he said.

Although he was not able to get a formal tour, he had family at the universities and was able to get a tour through them. When he was in California he still had to wear a mask while on the bus and in some buildings but not while walking through campus. However, the loosened restrictions were the reason he was able to travel and visit schools in the first place.

“I think like any other college tour it gave me a glimpse at the college and how it functions, and I was able to get information about buildings and student life through my family,” Shouri said.

Because of the pandemic and mask restrictions last year, juniors that year were unable to visit colleges and see student life, however juniors this year were able to have that experience.

Many U-High students stayed in Chicago over the break, including ninth grader George Ofori-Mante. Over the break, he was able to visit family and go to the movies with a friend, something he did not feel comfortable doing before the loosened restrictions.

As of Feb. 28, in Chicago masks are only required in public transportation, healthcare facilities, nursing homes, airports, prisons and jails. Businesses also have the ability to choose if masks are required.

“I feel like things are a lot less restrictive because at the movie theater I did lose my mask, but since it’s now optional, I didn’t feel as exposed,” George said. “But it still does feel a little weird to have our masks off because it’s been two years without it.”

It still does feel a little weird to have our masks off because it’s been two years without it.

— George Ofori-Mante

George said he was grateful for the reduced mask restrictions and that he could have a more enjoyable break than last year.

“I feel cautious and relieved at the same time because I think it’s a good step to go in,” he said. “I think it makes sense because masks weren’t ever meant to be permanent. I do think we should always stay cautious because of COVID.”

Senior Adler Wright vacationed in Puerto Rico with a classmate and worked on obtaining scuba certification. He felt the revised mask restrictions improved his vacation because he enjoyed his time at the resort more and interacted better with the people there.

In Puerto Rico, masks are not required on the island except in public transportation, health facilities and nursing homes.

“It was really nice to be able to walk around the resort and not worry about carrying a mask. Meeting the dive instructors without masks was nice,” he said. “It just really felt like I got to know the people there better because I could see their faces and expressions.”