COVID-19 worries decrease despite Chicago’s infection rate


Gabriel Issa

Seniors Jeffrey Huang (unmasked) and Ege Halac (masked) talk in the library. The mask optional guidelines for the school year mean that less than 25% of the U-High student body has chosen to wear a mask regularly.

Erich Raumann, Deputy Managing Editor

During a passing period, students fill the hall in an almost wall-to-wall mass, laughing, loudly conversing and calling out to passing friends — almost every face unmasked. It’s a scene that was difficult to imagine seven months ago, when constant worry over infection rates meant mandatory testing and much of the student body masking up.
This difference in attitude doesn’t seem to reflect Chicago’s infection numbers, which are higher than they were in the spring. Chicago’s COVID-19 dashboard lists the community spread risk at the medium level as of Sept. 21.
Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lab’s current COVID-19 mitigation policy recommends students wear a mask indoors when others are present and adds an optional SHIELD testing program. Fewer than 25% of U-High students answering a Schoology poll claimed they were regularly wearing a mask, and only a little over 100 tests were submitted during the second week of school across Lab’s two campuses, according to nurse Mary Toledo-Treviño.
Senior Sohrab Rezaei said he stopped masking as soon as the mandate was lifted.
“I didn’t feel it was necessary to wear a mask for the obvious reason: it’s uncomfortable,” he said. “I don’t want to wear a mask. It doesn’t feel good on my face. Yeah, the mask obviously protects me from the virus, but I personally wasn’t too worried if I got the virus.”
In contrast to Chicago’s infection rate, Lab’s is more promising, with only nine positive test results among employees and students from kindergarten to high school for the week ending Sept. 17, according to the school COVID-19 online dashboard.
“Last year, the variant that we were dealing with was pretty contagious,” nurse Mary Toledo-Treviño said, “so there was definitely more of an increase in COVID infection that we had at the end of last year versus what we have now. We’re staying hopeful. These numbers are doable.”
As an added measure of security, COVID-19 vaccine boosters will be available to faculty, students and family along with their yearly flu shot, which will be available Oct. 4, 11, 18 and 25.
Despite seemingly reassuring numbers, many U-High students continue to wear masks in order to avoid the inconvenience and discomfort of contracting COVID-19.
“I had COVID in May, and it sucked, and I don’t want to get it again,” said senior Nathan Greeley, who wears a mask regularly. “I couldn’t go to a Weezer concert. I don’t want to have to not go to a concert again.”