Students voice opinions on city of Kent’s mask mandate

Troy PiersonReporter

Kent City Council passed an ordinance to mandate face coverings in the city, both in public and private businesses on July 15.

The new measure comes after COVID-19 cases began to rise throughout the summer, prompting state officials to encourage social distancing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus. In preparation for next semester, Kent State has implemented the Flashes Safe Seven principles, which requires students, faculty and visitors to wear masks on campus. 

The city and university’s new policies will change everyday life for students preparing to return to the area for fall classes. Kody Sauvey, a freshman digital media productions major, plans to return to on-campus housing after moving off campus in March to his hometown in Lorain county. While masks are mandatory in his county, Sauvey has seen crowds of people without masks at places such as Crocker Park Mall in Westlake. He said mandates on masks are a good thing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public places, and he hopes students in Kent will abide by these measures in the fall. 

“Wearing a mask does not do any negative harm to you, but not wearing one can do negative harm to other people around you,” Sauvey said. “There’s no negative to wearing a mask, (and there is) only positives no matter how you look at it.”

Justine Gallo, a junior fashion design major, left her apartment in Kent in March to return to her hometown in New Jersey. Her state has implemented a mask mandate since early July, and she has been accustomed to wearing a mask at a flea market job she took in early summer. Gallo said wearing masks is a sign of respect toward others in public, but she anticipates people in Kent will continue to practice their personal habits regardless of the mask mandate. 

Josh Devera, a sophomore digital media production major, moved back to his hometown in Richfield after COVID-19 concerns closed the university. While Devera will only take online classes from home this semester, he did approve of Kent’s mask mandate.

“Me and my family personally don’t have a problem with wearing masks in public,” Devera said. “We want other people to wear masks so we stay safe and to keep other people safe . . . I don’t think anybody’s rights are being stripped away from them. This is an overall morally good thing for the most number of people. We need to seek to find the new normal in these hard times, and this is part of it, just adapting.”

Nora Riffle, a junior fashion design major, moved back to her hometown in West Virginia after campus closed in March. She is living part of the summer at Saugatuck in Michigan with relatives and works as a hostess at a local restaurant. Riffle expressed her concern for patrons visiting the restaurant, as Saugatuck is a large tourist destination for those visiting Lake Michigan. 

“I’ve gotten a lot of backlash from people not wanting to wear masks (and) being very upset about having to walk to their table with a mask on,” Riffle said. “I would never be upset by that. We’re trying to keep you safe. We’ve actually had to kick people out of the restaurant because they won’t wear a mask.”

Riffle advocates for the mask mandate in Kent and is curious to see what weekends and bar life will be like in the downtown area as the city of Kent implemented a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area [DORA] last week.

Contact Troy Pierson at [email protected].