• Anna Jackson

OPINION: Masks are a must, not a maybe

Updated: Apr 26

As an omicron tidal wave wallops Belmont, COVID-19 case numbers are surging at the university like never before.


We knew this would happen. We knew this would be another semester deeply affected by coronavirus. The highly contagious variant “will ultimately find just about everybody,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


But many students and faculty at Belmont still refuse to do even the bare minimum when it comes to mitigating the effects of COVID-19’s latest swell.


All you are asked to do is wear a mask over your nose and mouth while indoors on campus.


That’s it. One protocol to follow in an effort to keep our community safer. Regardless of whether that one protocol is enough, it’s something each of us can do. Not to mention the university mandates it.


People forget the Vision office has windows. From our fishbowl on the first floor of the Johnson Center, we counted the number of mask violations we saw in just one hour — anyone walking by with masks drooping under their noses or tucked beneath their chins.

We tallied 22 in that hour. And that’s just in one hallway, in one building. Some weren’t wearing masks at all.


One protocol.


The men’s basketball game against the University of Tennessee Martin drew a crowd of 1,601 Saturday. We brought in the trusty tally counter once again and set out looking for uncovered faces in the stands.


We didn’t count anyone on the court, anyone actively eating or anyone visibly under the age of 5.


And despite the bright, Jumbotron-size signage letting everyone know masks are a requirement in the Curb Event Center, we counted 462 maskless faces. That’s almost 30% of attendees.

A snapshot of the student section at Saturday's men's basketball game. One round of "I Spy" reveals there are 36 uncovered noses in this picture. Sarah Maninger / Belmont Vision

A snapshot of the student section at Saturday’s men’s basketball game. One round of “I Spy” reveals there are 36 uncovered noses in this picture. Sarah Maninger / Belmont Vision

We even glimpsed a very familiar someone with his mask dangling around his ear, a leader who should be setting an example for the Belmont community.

It’s disheartening to see President Greg Jones himself shirking the single COVID-19 health precaution Belmont requires.

President Greg Jones at the women's basketball game Saturday. Jones did wear a mask at one point while in the stands, but he later removed it. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger

President Greg Jones at the women’s basketball game Saturday. Jones did wear a mask at one point while in the stands, but he later removed it. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger

One protocol.


Belmont has one protocol against a disease that has killed 22,000 people in Tennessee, 878,000 in the U.S. and 5.6 million globally.


It will kill more. It will continue to mutate and spread until everyone does their part to stop it, which is as easy as getting the recommended vaccine or pulling your mask up over your nose.


To those who rise up in arms against those precautions, you are not seeing the whole picture. Look at the numbers.


If the big ones don’t compute, think small. Single digits. How many degrees of separation stand between you and someone who’s died from COVID-19? For me, it’s two. And then two again.


And there are those in our community who can’t even begin to quantify what they’ve lost.

But if all these numbers bore you, think about the weeks and months and years of our lives we’ve lost to the pandemic.


Think about the fear and the chaos we’ve lived through, and imagine what it will be like masking up and locking down come 2023.


One protocol.


Keep that in mind, and try a little harder, Belmont.


PHOTO: Signage in the Curb Event Center lets visitors know that masks are required at all times while indoors. Yet many in Saturday’s crowd were maskless. Belmont Vision / Sarah Maninger

This op-ed was written by Anna Jackson.

#GregJones #maskmandate #Omicron #Jackson #COVID19 #CurbEventCenter

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