I wish our government were as cautious as the high school students I know.

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To continue to mask or not to mask, that’s the question Quebec high school students face these days, now that they are no longer required to wear masks while sitting at their desks.

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My children attend a high school where the vast majority of students are fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, that is not the case in all schools.

Still, my kids have told me that they don’t feel comfortable removing their masks while sitting in a crowded classroom with no social distancing. They are not the only ones who feel that way, for which I am grateful. Peer pressure can be a big concern at that age, but if there is any pressure to conform, it is to keep the masks on. Presumably it also helps that my school administration has urged students to continue to wear their masks and practice good hygiene.

When speaking to friends and family with children in high school, everyone I have talked to has shared that their children keep masks on while sitting in class. A major concern among my friends and family is the large number of outbreaks in elementary schools, where children are too young to have been vaccinated. If siblings bring the virus home and their older siblings take it to school with them, that puts all high school classrooms at risk if the mask is not continued to be worn while students are seated.

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I am proud of how my children and the high school students I know maintain their COVID protocols, and not just in the classroom. For example, my son, who plays hockey, has adapted well to having his immunization passport ready when he arrives at the rink, along with his identification. He knows to put on the mask while dressing for his games / practices and has learned to navigate this new reality.

We are making real progress in terms of the percentage of our population that is fully vaccinated; We’ve eased the COVID restrictions and got a glimpse of what our new normal looks like.

However, our numbers are not exactly low at the moment, with new cases in the last few days hovering around 500, 600 or even 700. We are not out of the woods. And now, we are seeing significant spikes in COVID cases in Europe. We need to take note. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the virus spread, to varying degrees, after COVID restrictions were relaxed too early or too many restrictions were relaxed at the same time.

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We are heading into the winter months where the windows will be closed and the air recirculated. Children will stay home longer during recess and lunch in many schools when the weather is inclement. This can be a lousy recipe when it comes to spreading this virus.

The high school mask mandate is not the only restriction that has been lifted. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs have also undergone significant changes in the way they operate. For example, the dance ban is finally lifted and karaoke has been given the green light, although certain rules must be followed. These are all positive things to help society get out of this pandemic, but still, I can’t help but worry.

Again, in many ways it feels like we’re so close to the finish line, taking off our masks when we’re close doesn’t feel well thought out. I would love to see us move past this point in the pandemic where it feels like one step forward and two steps back. Unfortunately, the holiday season is just around the corner and now is not the time to take such risks.

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I’m glad, at least, that our high school students seem to be proceeding with caution. If only the government were too.

Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of CanadianMomEh.com, a lifestyle blog.

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