Disregard for COVID-19 Safety Precautions at the Polls

People crowded into Radnor Elementary and other polling locations Tuesday morning.

A sophomore Villanova student eager to exercise her civic duty arrived at the polls at 6:45 a.m. yesterday morning, hoping to avoid a long wait time and get back for her morning classes. Yet, the hour-long wait was not what caused the most frustration in her voting experience: it was the blatant disregard for others’ health and safety as people stood in line wearing their masks incorrectly. 

One of the most concerning examples of someone defiantly disobeying the mask mandate came from a University senior, who was wearing his mask below his nose. He was also vocal in the voting line, loudly expressing his idea of University’s “brainwashing” of students about COVID-19 and the illegitimacy of the coronavirus on a college campus. The student would adjust his mask correctly whenever a poll-worker passed by and immediately remove it once they were out of sight. 

“What was most alarming to me was the complete disrespect this person showed for others,” the sophomore student said. “I felt concerned for the poll-workers as they tried to encourage social distancing but no one was really listening,” she recalled. The poll-workers were not met with much compliance, so the proper use of masks was what they were relying on. If someone was uncomfortable with the close quarters and some people improperly wearing their masks, they had no choice but to leave. 

“If you go into a store and someone isn’t wearing their mask, you can choose to remove yourself from that area and shop somewhere else or online,” the sophomore student added. “But in this situation, people failing to follow the mask mandate was putting people in a position where they had to ask themselves, do I want to sacrifice my health or my right to vote?” 

After witnessing this other student remove his mask intentionally multiple times, she asked him to wear it correctly and was met with compliance and obvious annoyance. 

“It was a matter of principle for me,” she said. “Villanova has done such a good job with The CARITAS Commitment, and it is unfortunate that this one student reflected the University so negatively and damaged our reputation.” 

In an already divided and contentious political environment, the coronavirus pandemic added another layer of anxiety and fear that voters needed to face in this election. Wearing a mask is something simple that is mandated to protect others, and a complete disregard for that is an intentional way to hurt others. Democracy thrives on diversity of thought, but it should not come at the cost of others’ safety just to make a statement.