Now we remember what we look like without masks

“Oh, now I remember what you look like.”

You might be hearing that a lot lately as it’s ok not to wear masks in public – but many people are doing it anyway.

The two-year mandate of wearing masks to protect each other from contracting COVID-19 ended March 11, per Gov. Jay Inslee’s order.

But people can be seen around Bainbridge Island, and especially in the schools, still wearing masks. Physical distancing also is no longer required.

BHS junior Rain Malzahn walked to lunch with two friends, all wearing masks on the second day of school after the mask mandate was lifted.

Rain said they are easing their way into life without masks by wearing them as they feel comfortable.

“It’s weird. It’s interesting to see that it’s a choice and an option that we don’t have to wear the mask. It’s nice to not have it,” she said.

Laura Carrillo, also a junior, said: “It’s going to take some getting used to. Everyone kind of feels that way, but it is nice to see everyone’s face again.”

In a BI school district newsletter, superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said he is optimistic that society is turning the corner regarding the epidemic, with numbers way down locally and nationally.

He said schools are working to reinstate some activities and traditions that were halted due to COVID restrictions.

“As I visited with staff and students at schools yesterday, I felt a sense of hope that I hadn’t felt in a long time — two years, to be exact,” Bang-Knudsen said.

He emphasized the importance of respecting everyone, whether they choose to continue wearing masks or not.

“It is imperative to respect the choices of others. Those who continue masking are welcome to do so, and their decision will be honored — just like the decision not to wear a mask will also be honored,” Bang-Knudsen said.

Students, staff, volunteers and visitors will have the option to attend school with or without masks, and the option extends to school bus riders as well.

Some COVID mitigation restrictions remain in schools.

Masks are still required in school health rooms and while in school COVID-19 isolation rooms.

People who test positive for COVID may return to school/work after five full days of isolation, if symptoms have improved, and they are fever-free without the use of medication.

However, they must do one of the following upon return: wear a well-fitted mask for six to 10 days following their positive test. Or, test negative with an antigen or at-home test.

Other changes include: bell covers are no longer required on instruments while practicing or performing; and contact tracing has been reduced to those who are immunocompromised, medically fragile or otherwise at high risk for severe COVID.

BISD continues to follow updated guidance from the state Department of Health and Kitsap Public Health District.