Expression of compassion and care
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic there was a popular video that was shared on social media imagining a woman travelling back in time to January to warn herself of what was to come. If we were similarly able to warn ourselves, one could only imagine the disbelief that we would display at such dramatic changes to the immediate future. Who would believe that by July, international and interstate travel would be impossible? That we could not attend a footy game? That it would not be legal for Melburnians to drive to other parts of Victoria without valid excuse? Or there would be product limits on basic groceries at supermarkets and that we would be fined for leaving the house not wearing a face mask?
With all of these extraordinary changes that we have had to assimilate into our daily lives and routines we have done our best to roll with it and to stay positive. With this in mind, it has been really heartening this week to see the way that our students and staff have embraced the mandatory mask wearing that came into effect on Wednesday night.
At our daily health checks, it has been brilliant to witness the burgeoning creativity as masks in so many different patterns, materials and styles are adopted across the School. This colour and vibrancy are ways of sweetening what is for some an uncomfortable reminder of the challenges we are living through. I do not choose to view mask wearing in this light. Rather, I see it as the ultimate expression of our compassion and care for one-another.
Research has indicated that when both parties wear masks, the risk of viral transmission between them is greatly reduced. While the claimed benefit varies, most research places it somewhere between 70% – 98.5%. Clearly, it is a very significant protection.
An interesting discussion point around introducing mask-wearing in a school environment is that the major benefit of wearing a mask predominantly flows to others beyond our student body. The data collected in Australia and internationally suggests that COVID-19 generally presents very mildly in younger people. In this way we can understand that our students wearing masks is largely about looking after others and not themselves. It is ultimately an act of selflessness aimed at protecting more vulnerable members of the community from harm.
I think that we should be proud to wear our masks as an active expression of the Jewish principle of “pikuach nefesh” – the concept that saving a life is more important than any other mitzvah.
We have all been asked to make many sacrifices to flatten the COVID curve and we are now being asked to do more again. At the most basic level, witnessing the positivity with which our students and staff have accepted this latest imposition speaks highly of their sense of responsibility and abidance with legal requirements. At a deeper level, however, it speaks of our strong community values of looking after one-another, caring for the vulnerable and ensuring that we only contribute positively to the world.