With mask warrants expiring, companies are betting on their own policies

Come Tuesday, Connecticut’s mask mandate ends, but not within the four walls of Staci Glazier’s hair salon.

/ Staci B. Glazier


Staci B. Glazier

Salon owner Staci Glazier has restructured her business during the pandemic, working alone and scheduling one client at a time to reduce risk to herself and her clientele.

“Because I’m a private company, those are my rules,” says Glazier, who will continue to require customers to mask up. “No matter what the city or state does, those are my rules.”

Glazier left her former salon and opened her one-man shop, Glaze, in Hamden during the pandemic. She thought it was safer because she could limit exposure for herself and her clients. Plus, she was tired of running out of work and money, every time another stylist was exposed.

“I don’t want to have to close my business again, and I don’t think we’re off the hook,” she says. Most customers understand; she separated herself from those who do not.

The CDC relaxed its mask guidelines on Friday, saying nearly 70% of Americans live somewhere where it’s okay not to cover your face. Much of the country had already abandoned mask mandates. As of March 1, indoor mask mandates will only remain in three states – Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. (Oregon’s mask mandate will end March 19; Washington’s will end March 21, according to statements from those states’ governors.)

Recent polls show the country is nearly evenly split on mask mandates — mostly by party. So, indeed, many restaurants and convenience stores navigate their masking policies based on personal choice or risk tolerance.

For the public, this means encountering a potential patchwork of masking, at work and in everyday life.

“It’s something that comes up in almost every conversation I have with my patients,” says internist Vivek Cherian, who treats inpatients in Chicago. Because they are sick and vulnerable to COVID-19, he says many are worried about Illinois’ mask mandate ending this month.

“They’re just a little uncomfortable where we are right now in this pandemic,” Cherian says. “Even though things are much, much better, … they also see that 2,000 people are still dying every day.”

The increased risk following unmasking is a difficult question to answer because it depends on many variables, says Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician at Stanford University. “It’s not a binary whether or not they work or don’t – some masks work much better than others,” Karan says, so he always recommends switching to N95 masks when they’re in close proximity. with others.

Overall effectiveness also depends on factors such as ventilation, humidity and, of course, how well the mask is worn, says Karan.

It is precisely because they are worn so rarely in bars and restaurants that Bill Duggan never saw the point of requiring them there in the first place.

“It’s become kind of a joke,” says Duggan, owner of famed Washington DC blues bar Madam’s Organ, “because people have to wear a mask to walk through the door, but as soon as they’ve had a drink or eaten something, so they don’t wear it.”

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

Duggan is happy to see DC’s indoor mask mandate expire Feb. 28, because he says they’ve been ineffective as a public health tool and unenforceable.

Instead, he argues, the city should have focused on mandating vaccines for indoor diners; Madame’s Organ still checks vaccination records at the door, even though the city no longer requires it.

Duggan says it’s where the battle was to take place: “One of my closest friends, as well as a musician who has been with me for 28 years…he passed away on November 4.”

The friend did not want to be vaccinated. As a result, Duggan did not let him perform at Madam’s Organ. “Really, it pissed me off and I was heartbroken,” he says.

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

Missouri has never had a mask mandate; the warrant in Kansas City, where The Campground restaurant is located, expired earlier this month.

“We’ve been in a bit of no man’s land trying to figure it out ourselves,” says Christopher Ciesiel, co-owner of The Campground.

Ciesiel always requires proof of vaccinations and strongly recommends masks for indoor seating – partly because he is a former nurse and because his daughter was too young to be vaccinated. He was pushed back, but overall he says these policies have helped businesses.

“I feel like now we’ve kind of weeded out all the guests that would have been problems for us anyway, so now it almost feels like our clientele is coming to us because we’re doing this. “, he says of the mask recommendations and vaccine needs.

Recently, for example, a customer with terminal cancer visited the restaurant with her family, leaving the house for the first time in two years. “They came here because they felt safe,” he says.

It also helped business, Ciesiel says, because — unlike nearby stores — he and his staff didn’t close because they didn’t get sick.

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