With mask mandates expiring, businesses bet by themselves policies

2 years ago
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Come Tuesday, Connecticut’s mask mandate ends, though not inside the four walls of Staci Glazier’s beauty salon.

“Because I’m a personal business, it’s my rules,” says Glazier who will continue requiring clients to mask up. “It doesn’t appear the town or even the state does; it’s my rules.”

Glazier left her former salon and opened her one-woman shop, Glaze, in Hamden throughout the pandemic. She figured it was safer because she could limit exposure for herself and her clients. Plus, she was fed up with missing out on work and cash, each time another stylist got exposed.

“I don’t wish to have to shut my company again, and I don't believe we’re out of the woods,” she says. Most clients understand; she’s parted ways with those who don’t.

The CDC relaxed its mask guidance Friday, advising that just about 70% of american citizens live in a place where it’s Alright to skip face coverings. Much of the nation had already moved on from mask mandates. As of March 1, indoor mask mandates will stay in just three states – Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. (Oregon’s mask mandate will end March 19; Washington’s can finish March 21, according to statements from those states’ governors.)

Recent polls show the nation near to evenly split over mask mandates – mostly along party lines. So essentially, many restaurants and corner-stores are navigating their masking policies according to personal choice or risk tolerance.

For the public, which means encountering a possible patchwork of masking, on the job as well as in everyday life.

“This really is something that comes up in almost every conversation I have with my patients,” says internist Vivek Cherian, who treats hospitalized patients in Chicago. Since they're sick and vulnerable to COVID-19, he says many be worried about no more Illinois’s mask mandate this month.

“They’re just kind of uncomfortable where we're right now within this pandemic,” Cherian says. “Despite the fact that things are looking much, far better,…they’re seeing 2,000 people are still dying every single day.”

How much risk increases as a result of unmasking is really a tough question to answer, since it depends upon many variables, says Abraar Karan, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford University. “It’s not really a binary of whether they work or otherwise or don’t work – certain masks work a lot better than others,” Karan says, so he still recommends upgrading to N95 masks much more close quarters with other people.

The effectiveness in general depends also on things like ventilation, humidity and, of course, how good the mask is worn, Karan says.

It’s precisely because they’re worn so infrequently in bars and restaurants that Bill Duggan never saw a place to requiring them there in the first place.

“It’s become a joke,” says Duggan, owner of the landmark Washington D.C. blues bar Madam’s Organ, “because people have to wear a mask just to walk through the door, but because soon as they possess a drink or eating anything, then they don’t put it on.”

The mandate was to mask unless “actively eating or drinking,” which Duggan argues was available to too much interpretation.

Duggan is satisfied to determine D.C.’s indoor mask mandate expire Feb. 28, because he says they’ve been ineffective as a public health tool, and impossible to enforce.

Instead, he argues, the town should’ve centered on mandating vaccines for indoor diners; Madam’s Organ still checks vaccination cards at the door, even though the city no longer requires it.

Duggan says that’s where the battle ought to be fought: “One of my closest friends, in addition to a musician who’s been beside me for 28 years … he died on November 4th.”

The friend didn’t want to get vaccinated. Duggan wouldn’t let him perform at Madam’s Organ consequently. “Truthfully, it got me pissed off as well as heartbroken,” he says.

Meanwhile, across most of the country, mask mandates really are a thing of the past, or never existed.

Missouri never had a mask mandate; the mandate in Kansas City, in which the Campground restaurant is, expired earlier this year.

“We’ve been kind of in no man’s land attempting to decipher it ourselves,” says Christopher Ciesiel, co-owner of The Campground.

Ciesiel still requires proof of vaccination and strongly recommend masks for indoor seating – partly because he’s a former nurse, and since his daughter was too young to vaccinate. He got some pushback, but on balance he says those policies have helped business.

“I feel like now we’ve kind of whittled away all the guests that would happen to be trouble for us, anyways, so now it almost feels like our clientele is coming to us because we’re doing this,” he says from the mask recommendations and vaccine requirements.

Recently, for example, a person with terminal cancer visited the restaurant with her family, staying away the very first time in 2 years. “They came here simply because they felt safe,” he states.

It’s also helped business, Ciesiel says, because – unlike neighboring stores – he and the staff haven’t closed, because they haven’t gotten sick.

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