The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

The Eyes of MSMS

The Vision

Harvey: We survived a COVID outbreak. Why was masking not encouraged?

Iris Xue
Senior Sebastian Harvey stands “masked” on MSMS campus. During Orientation Week, MSMS experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, causing approximately 30 people to be sent home.

One of my best friends caught COVID-19. It wasn’t the blatant, guns-blazing kind of sickness. This variant slipped in unnoticed and smirked on its way out. 

A week ago, I sat next to him in our special topic class, Mathematically Modeling Barriers Across Communities. It was the first week of school; a week of excitement. We pondered education disparities in our home county, Oktibbeha, and the ways we could solve them. He mentioned feeling tired, but nothing more. 

Little did I know an entirely different issue had already infiltrated the room.

The next 24 hours were full of chaos and terror, and masks and mandates. I was playing soccer after leaving class, when my phone buzzed. I looked down and saw a text: He was sick.

Juniors looked at me, asking if this was normal, if they had to go home, if they had COVID. I told them to wear a mask and social distance. “Be safe” was always my last line; it always felt a little too hopeful. 

Every time I left a junior, I checked the emissary group chat on my phone. Positive after positive. One, two, three, four, five — the world was falling. 

As we plummeted to some distant rock bottom, a separate ping hit my phone, not in the form of a text but an email. It was from Donald Cook, our executive director. The email didn’t carry the somber nature I felt all around me. Instead of telling us to stay safe, we were told that mask mandates weren’t required. Instead of enforcing social distancing, everything looked “normal,” and everyone was “in good spirits.” In the end, approximately 30 students caught COVID, which is around 12% of the student body. 

The most concerning part of the email was the scientific advice offered by the administration. I understand trying to paint a picture of safety and happiness, but I don’t understand not doing everything in the school’s power to curb COVID.

Cook said he has, “an ER physician whose daughter is here and giving me information on more up-to-date perspectives on the illness.” In an email forwarded by Cook, this physician cited the Cochrane Report as reasoning for masks making “little to no difference” in the prevention of the virus. I was extremely surprised to see this physician actively contradicting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

A quick search shows the Cochrane Report is not definitive. After receiving backlash over the study, eventually the editor-in-chief of the Cochrane Library, Karla Soares-Weiser, said the report’s results were inconclusive due to high bias, high variation in outcome and issues with test subjects wearing the masks provided. Soares-Weiser also said the results of the report were misinterpreted. 

The vast majority of the scientific community continues to accept masks as an effective COVID prevention measure when trying to slow the spread of the virus.

There’s not really anyone who wants to follow these guidelines. It would be a lot easier if we were all healthy. Trust me, I started to grow a goatee (which I lovingly refer to as my ‘tee) over the summer, and it has been hard going. Ironically, as soon as I got my sparsely grown virility to show just a little, COVID swept in, and I had to hide all my manly beauty under a mask. Even worse, my ‘tee now gets itchy every time I wear it.

Still, this doesn’t mean I suffer or have my rights taken away when I wear the mask. My personal rights aren’t being infringed, and it’s keeping everybody safer. 

Community is one of MSMS’ core values. Our school is special because we take pride in the friends we work beside, the memories we make and the staff who make living at MSMS the best possible experience. Although COVID isn’t immediately dangerous to the students living on campus, it can be deadly when the elderly, those with a variety of chronic illnesses and diseases, and the immunocompromised are exposed to it.

We shouldn’t just be worrying about the safety of our fellow classmates, but also the safety of our faculty, staff and everyone in the community who is in danger of passing the virus to others. More than 1 million Americans have died from this packet of genetic information. This isn’t something to take lightly.

Many of the issues surrounding the spread of COVID can’t be stopped when 200-plus students are packed in a dormitory. However, every single measure that can be taken should be taken when the safety of the entire community is in mind. 

Currently, most of the students and teachers who tested positive are back on campus, and the initial outbreak slowed down, so I give credit to everyone involved for keeping the school from shutting down. When COVID inevitably sweeps around again, hopefully we can be more informed and better prepared. We’re all in this together. 

Be safe.

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About the Contributors
Sebastian Harvey, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Sebastian Harvey, 2024 Co-Editor-in-Chief, is a senior from Starkville. He enjoys spending time watching his favorite soccer team, making maps and mazes, reading and playing tennis. Sebastian’s favorite animal is the octopus, and he loves to bake. He believes in Murphy’s law: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” 
Iris Xue, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Iris Xue, 2024 Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Vision, is a senior from Southaven. She joined The Vision to devote her love of writing to keeping MSMS students informed. Outside of The Vision, Iris plays tennis for the MSMS Tennis Team and is involved with Mu Alpha Theta, French Club, and much more. When she’s not talking about math, she’s probably reading a good book, listening to the latest Taylor Swift album, volunteering with Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership or finding answers to seemingly impossible questions with her friends. 

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