By Jordan Richied
The most common terminology ingrained in our minds over the last two years are: Covid-19, vaccines, social distancing, lockdowns and most importantly masks.
Most individuals have enshrined masks as the safety net of everyday life. On the 3rd of August, St. Mary’s enforced yet another mask mandate within all buildings due to a health order made by Contra Costa County. While it is easy to understand why St. Mary’s jumped on the bandwagon of mask mandates and vaccine policies, many would believe this was not the best decision. This controversy is extremely prevalent within the gym community on campus.
Here at St. Mary's, the recreation center is extremely popular. “The gym overall is a good experience” declared by Joey Vasquez ‘23, a junior who uses the gym four times a week. The recreation center encounters a multitude of individuals with different backgrounds and beliefs, especially when it comes to the mask policy. The two main viewpoints presented from students on the mask policy within the gym is that it is either excessive or for the betterment of everyone’s safety. Many students believe as of right now the mask mandate is imperative. “It’s important...just so that everyone is safe,” said Makenna Hicks ‘23 who is a Recreation Facility Services Assistant here at the gym. Naturally, safety is most important in living a healthy lifestyle. However, many students who utilize the gym think the mask mandate is unnecessary. “Students should have their own choice” Nick Chaub ‘22 claimed when discussing the mask policy within the gym. Based on these two responses alone, one can clearly see a division amongst the gym crowd.
Even with disunity among this coterie, many would agree that the gym is a very “germy” environment. “There’s many things being touched in the gym...by many people.” Makenna Hicks ‘23 added. Even despite this, Makenna and many of the gym recreational staff do a fantastic job of keeping up with all their policies to ensure student safety. When it comes to masks specifically, “it’s another step to take to be safe.” an anonymous worker stated when discussing the importance of it within the rec center. This does not come without its consequences though as the anonymous worker proclaimed working out with a mask “can be a little restricting.”
Even despite this, some students have seen the mask as a blessing in disguise. One such individual is Benjamin Noel ‘22, a Marketing Major who works out four times a week and was a past employee at Fitness 19 in Campbell, CA. “I sort of appreciate it...it’s a challenge I like to face.” Noel said when talking about his frequent interactions with a mask. When it comes to potential health risks besides people with asthma or breathing issues Noel said, “I don’t think it can bring additional strain.” The acclimation of the mask has become common amongst gym users, but many believe the mask mandate feels excessive and unnecessary while working out.
As mentioned prior students are filing in and out of the gym constantly. There are slow and busy times however, it does not seem to get crowded enough where mask mandates are a concern. “There’s not that many people...it goes in flows.” said Hawley Harrer ‘23, a Communication Major who plays both indoor and beach volleyball. Another important factor to keep in mind is students taking their mask off to drink water, breathe, chat with friends etc. Nick Chaub ‘22 thinks the mask mandate is contradicting itself within the gym. “It’s okay to have the mask off to sip water...working out you can’t.” Even though drinking water or catching one’s breath are short intervals of time, some students have taken advantage of this excuse through lackadaisical mask enforcement. “They’ve been a bit more lenient.” Chaub said when communicating about the staff. He pointed out that he usually goes to the gym at later hours when he notices the leniency.
I decided to conduct a study at the gym during later hours and the results I found were staggering. I visited the gym one evening and within a one hour period I encountered 65 students. Of those 65, 33 of them had their mask either pulled down or completely off. I’ve seen students working out with masks off before there but never at this amount. It was quite astonishing.
An important disclaimer to keep in mind is that this is not meant to bash the student staff who work and maintain the recreation center. They do an outstanding job with cleaning and sanitizing equipment to ensure the safety of students and staff. Words cannot describe how much they are appreciated by us gym rats. However, the mask mandate does not get the same treatment by some students. We can all agree that it is important to protect others, nevertheless some students believe safety should be in the hands of the user. Regardless of this conflict, the administration will have to do what is best for the campus. Contra Costa County did lift the mask mandate for specific in-door businesses recently on the 1st of November, and Saint Mary’s could follow suit.
Ryan Ford '23,