Imagine one day you are going to classes, getting groceries, going to work and trying to do everything in your power to be healthy, and the next day you have a sore throat, cough and a fever. Now, you have to isolate yourself for the next two weeks. It's depressing and no one wants to go through it again and again.

Even though the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department has dropped the mask mandate, they still encourage us to wear masks because the pandemic hasn't ended yet. Why not be safe rather than sorry?

Now that we do not have instructions from the health department to continue the mandate, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s face covering policies have also changed. We are no longer required to have face coverings indoors unless your instructors say otherwise, according to the university’s guidelines.

I myself have personally experienced the fact that you can still be infected by COVID-19, even after being fully vaccinated and wearing masks at all times. Since I work at a public place, I am always at the risk of contracting the virus, and so are others who work in the public sector.

After I tested positive for COVID-19, even after taking all the necessary precautions, it was frustrating to suffer through it. I was so tired that I couldn't get out of my bed. My throat hurt and I had a bad headache. I had to miss two weeks worth of classes and when I returned, people didn’t have to wear masks at all times, making me more paranoid of contracting the virus again.

Lifting mask mandates can be risky to the students, staff and public because doing so puts every one of us at risk. Being vaccinated can make you feel safe, but that safety is not always guaranteed. You can always contract the virus even after getting the booster, and wearing a mask protects us from that chance. The university should continue with the mask mandate.

Since the Omicron strain of COVID-19 started to spread across Nebraska this winter, the health department reinstated the mask mandate on Jan. 15 through Feb. 11. Now that the mask mandate has been lifted, people may still feel a little uncomfortable, at least I do. We cannot ask everyone if they are vaccinated, especially if that someone is a stranger. Not everyone is open to speaking with strangers, and asking about their vaccination status sometimes might seem more invasive than we want it to be.

But the rate of fully vaccinated people of all ages in Nebraska is 63%, which means there remains still 37% of people out there with only one or no doses of the vaccine. We still do not know how dangerous the Omicron variant can turn out to be but we can say that it causes severe symptoms, the same symptoms that can turn into diseases like pneumonia, which in few cases could likely lead the patient to a hospital bed. People are still at risk of contracting the virus even after being fully vaccinated, and at times like this we should be more careful than ever.

The Fremont Tribune has an interactive map that shows the number of cases per thousand people in each county, which updates according to recent developments in cases. When it comes to Lancaster County, the map shows that there are currently 242 cases per thousand people, and there is a dashboard that shows the total number of cases each day. This development tells us that the danger has not left the country yet and we need to be safe and live healthily.

The university lifted the mask mandate considering the fact that the number of cases over the year has significantly decreased, and the percentage of vaccinated people is increasing day by day. The risk is still there, especially when we consider the fact that Omicron can leave people with long term effects.

Lifting the mask mandate might seem like the right thing to do, but when we think of the risk associated once actually contracting the virus, the mask is much needed. Even being vaccinated did not entirely protect me from contracting the virus, though my symptoms were mild.

We can all agree that the lift has been nice and up-lifting but we can not forget the fact that the mutated gene is still out there and much more dangerous than the original gene. This is only my opinion, but I'm going to continue to wear a mask in public spaces to protect myself and others, and I think you should too, even if there is no mandate.

Malvika Vijju is a junior women’s and gender studies major. Reach her at malvikavijju@dailynebraskan.com.