DVC Upholds Mask Mandate as COVID-19 Increases Disabilities

Photo+by+Jernej+Furman+via+Flickr.+CC+BY+2.0.

Photo by Jernej Furman via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Mireya Preciado, Staff

Many states and counties across the country have been lowering their mask restrictions, and even getting rid of mask mandates altogether, due to a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases. Diablo Valley College, meanwhile, has maintained its indoor mask mandate on campus to protect the health and safety of teachers and students – many of whom have decided whether or not to come back in person based on how safe they feel on campus.

Brandy Howard, DVC’s communications and marketing director, told The Inquirer that the college would continue to keep the mask mandate, even as Contra Costa County eased restrictions on indoor masking.

There’s a good reason for this: as pandemic restrictions loosen, many illnesses besides COVID are now reappearing.

Without mandatory masking, chest colds, common colds, ear infections, and the flu are back on the rise. Parents who are also students at DVC face particularly difficult decisions around the masking mandate, as unvaccinated small children attending school without masks for the first time since March 2020 stand a higher chance of contracting COVID-19.

Now, another worrying trend has emerged: increasing numbers of people acquiring disabilities in the wake of the virus.

According to a report from the Center for American Progress, 1.2 million more Americans have been identified as having a disability due to COVID. Evidence shows that as mask restrictions get lifted, there is a stronger chance for people to become disabled due to the virus or a related illness.

Zach Kornfeld, during the Try Guys podcast, “Why Don’t We Care About Disabled People?”, said that in terms of the pandemic, “there is a chance that you will become disabled and we’re over here telling you to be careful because the world does not care.”

One of the people Kornfeld interviewed, Imani Barbarin, a disability rights activist and advocate, said, “No one takes care of disabled people. So be selfish, and you will save yourself strife.”

Over the past two years, a disproportionate number of people infected by the virus were already living with pre-existing conditions. Thus, due to the threat of COVID-19, disabled people have been confined inside their homes longer than other people to keep themselves safe.

Nonetheless, many say the government reportedly did not give disabled people enough money to stay above the poverty line. As a result, some have felt that not only their health and safety, but their economic well being, has been on the backburner during the pandemic.

Charlis Hill, a loose disability advocate, said, “It was very clear from the very beginning that we [the disabled] were the ones that were gonna die. They were telling non-disabled people not to worry because we were disposable.”

Because of this, Hill added, “The automatic response from so many people is, ‘Well, just stay home. It’s not my responsibility to care for you.’”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people opposed to wearing masks have called mask mandates an infringement of their liberties. But for people whose health and safety have been especially jeopardized by the virus, masks remain a crucial barrier.

DVC student Serene Hamani said she feels safe at the college, and prefers to be on campus, because the vaccine and mask mandates continue to be enforced.

Brandy Howard, DVC’s communications and marketing director, said he feels that masks are here to stay. “I see masks going in and out throughout the years,” he said.