Return to Normal: A Recipe For Disaster


Aidan Marks

As BSM constantly shifts between mask mandatory and optional, many students find themselves stocking up on masks, only to throw them away in a few weeks.

Aidan Marks, Staff Writer

If I’ve learned one thing about BSM throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that the school is  unable to formulate a plan and stick with it. As the school reinstates a mask mandate for the second time in two months, one has to question whether all of this back-and-forth is necessary or productive.

Throughout the year, updates from administrators have touted the school’s efforts to “return to a more normal school experience.” But normalcy, when pursued at the detriment of safety and common sense, should not be the goal. Eagerly turning to “school data” from BSM and other nearby Catholic schools in a desperate attempt to justify fundamentally misguided policies will never succeed. Prematurely attempting to return to an outdated perception of “normal” is, as the title of this article argues, a recipe for disaster.

As schools across the country resumed in-person learning this fall, many viewed the implementation of rigorous procedures to combat the ongoing spread of COVID-19 as an essential aspect of ensuring a safe return to some sense of normalcy. Note that in these instances, “normal” meant in-person learning, not the absence of basic precautions, such as universal masking, distancing, daily screening, and rigorous testing. 

Specific aspects of COVID-response policies have shifted as case counts wax and wane, but the underlying philosophy guiding schools remains the same: pre-COVID reality is no longer viable; we cannot afford to evaluate our future based on an unattainable past. 

In many ways, repealing a mask mandate while cases continue to rise would be comparable to WW2-era Britain letting people turn their lights on during an air raid. But unlike the current situation with COVID-19, turning the lights on was never an option. Ironically, not implementing basic preventative measures was never a viable option either, as has been demonstrated by BSM’s repeated retreat to a half-heartedly enforced mask mandate. 

By now, the answer to the original question should be obvious: BSM’s constant shift in policy – starting the year with a mask mandate, repealing it, reinstating it, repealing it for only four days, and reinstating it again – was never necessary, and if anything, is extremely counterproductive. That leaves us with another question, possibly more disturbing than the first: why did the administration ever think this approach was viable in the first place?

The obvious answer is low recorded community spread. The idea that BSM acts as an isolated bubble immune to outside influence, and that official case numbers among faculty and students is the only metric worthy of consideration, is an appealing fantasy. But repeating the same line over and over doesn’t make it true. Remember that BSM had no intent of returning to a mask mandate until the Minnesota Department of Health slapped school officials on the wrist and told them to immediately revise their policies.

Even more concerning than high case numbers is the fact that BSM has access to the same case statistics that they report to the state. That means concrete statistics and scientific consensus were blatantly ignored in the name of . . . what, exactly?