OPINION: Wear masks when it makes sense, not when it doesn’t

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

When you walk into the Peters Recreation Complex that once bustled with sweaty students shifting from machines to mats, things look more calm than they once did. Since COVID-19 struck, the Rec had to crack down in several ways in the name of safety. This means temperature checks when you walk in, new hand sanitizer stations, machines spaced six feet apart and mandatory face coverings at all times.

Mandatory face coverings at all times means exactly what it sounds like — all times. This means that whether you are running on the treadmill or track, or bench pressing and doing squats, you are required to wear a mask.

While the rule seems small, it has a strong impact on students’ lives. That impact starts with the fact that cardio workouts like running, stair climbing or biking becomes increasingly difficult as the workout progresses. The athlete’s breathing gets heavier and their lungs demand more oxygen, which is hard to come by with a piece of cloth in front of your mouth. For the average person, a long cardio workout with a mask on is extra difficult and will likely limit the intensity level of workout they are able to do.

While of course it looks like a small sacrifice that students should be making to keep their peers safe at the gym, it is unclear who the sacrifice is really keeping safe. Machines are all six feet apart and wiped down with sanitizer between uses, which both make it very difficult for any virus to be transmitted. Not to mention in some cases it’s not as small a sacrifice as it may seem. The inability to workout fully or comfortably might steer students away from going to the Rec, and cause them to lose out on potential workouts, especially as the weather continues to cool and running outside becomes less practical.

This is worth noting because working out can be a key component to mental stability and combating mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Mental health issues are especially present in college students under copious amounts of stress, and even more so during an unprecedented and stressful period of all of our lives. Not to mention, working out strengthens your body which in turn can strengthen your immune system, which is an important muscle to be building as COVID-19 continues to spread. Creating circumstances that dissuade a student from getting a workout in is not serving them at all.

By requiring masks full time at the Rec, K-State is covering their bases, but there are a number of other adequate sanitary measures they are taking to ensure safety. Adding on the face covering requirement feels unnecessary and like it’s there simply for optics, and it has consequences.

Being safe has never been more important. However, rules that make sense are just as important. Unnecessary rules can and do have effects that can ripple into numerous parts of people’s lives.

Anna Schmidt is a junior in mass communications and the opinions editor for the Collegian. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.