Is Maskless Lunch Counterproductive?


By Kate Wildman, Staff Writer

The Freehold Regional High School District has been extremely precautious since the beginning of Covid-19. We were shut down from March to June 2020 and mostly virtual for all of the 2020- 2021 school year. In addition, we are still required to wear masks in all of our classes as well as keeping a 6-foot distance. Needless to say, it was a shock when the district announced that we would be going full day in person with a maskless lunch. Despite all of the district’s efforts to keep their students and faculty safe, are they putting the district’s safety in jeopardy by having us at lunch?

According to the CDC, “Someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.” Therefore, being maskless and within six feet of someone with covid-19 for over 15 minutes heightens your chance of contracting Covid from that person by extreme amounts. After reviewing the Freehold High School District schedule, it is seen that a lunch block is 35 minutes long. Assuming that the students have their masks off for the majority of lunch, that would mean they are at two times over the recommended limit of maskless exposure. We spend our entire day wearing a mask, but the 30 minutes spent without them on could be our biggest downfall.

In addition, unlike a classroom setting, there is no contact tracing in the lunchrooms. Telling over 500 high school students in one room to stay in one place can only do so much. People are constantly moving throughout the lunchrooms. Although, even if a student with Covid-19 were to stay in the same spot the entire lunch period, they would still be exposing anyone within 6 feet of them to the virus. It is then up to the student to inform the school with whom they’ve been in contact with. It would not be improbable that at least a few of the students exposed were not listed as close contacts from the student and therefore, they can still be in school despite the chance of them having Covid.

It is understood  that it is a troublesome and hard time to navigate. But, to spend so much time protecting the students and staff from the virus just to have a maskless lunch, does not seem to be in anyone’s best interest.  The district must be made aware of the flaws in the lunch system and discuss what can be done to enhance safety at lunchtime.