To Mask or Not to Mask

To mask, or not to mask, that is not the question.

As of July 7, Washington extended the No Mask, No Service requirement statewide. According to the state’s Coronavirus Response website, “Any of us can carry the virus and not realize we’re spreading it when we talk, cough, or sneeze. Face coverings are required statewide in all public spaces.”

To some, it’s more than a piece of cloth. It is a lifeline, a safety net that signals concern and respect for the health of the community. For others, it’s an alarming ebbing away of our rights from which we must protect ourselves. To all of us, it is divisive. I have seen people shouting at one another in retail stores over the issue and I have heard accounts of deleting lifelong friends from social media pages over the mask debate. It hurts all of us. While you may not have considered it, the requirements are also hurting our business community.

There are three face cover orders in place: a requirement for employers to provide appropriate face coverings or masks to all employees who don’t work alone; a statewide order directing all individuals to wear a face covering in any indoor public setting or when outdoors and unable to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others; and the governor’s order directing businesses to require and enforce the use of face coverings by all customers or visitors.

Businesses are now being held accountable for enforcement. Just days following announcements by law enforcement agencies that “the statewide face covering order is a public health and safety measure. It is not a mandate for law enforcement to detain, cite, or arrest violators…” the governor took steps to put the responsibility on businesses. While Inslee cannot force Washington State Patrol to enforce, he can fine businesses, shut their doors, and revoke their business licenses.

Local businesses are the heartbeat of our community. In fact, it is found that an average two-thirds of every dollar spent at small businesses stays in the local community. For every ten employees at a small business, another seven are supported here. Our businesses are vital to a healthy economy and you can help pull them through this difficult time. Consider the times a local salon sponsored a little league team, or a construction company donated to an auction, a restaurant provided gift cards to school programs, or a manufacturer contributed to local nonprofits.

This year already, our businesses have been required to close their shop, jump through hoops, navigate consistently changing requirements, and implement demanding safety precautions. Now they are required to do what law enforcement would not: ensure that any customer or client who patronizes their businesses wears a mask. Regardless of an owner’s personal position on masks, it’s likely that the risk of being fined on the heels of dire financial impacts due to the pandemic is simply too much to chance. Before you decide not to shop somewhere because there is a sign requiring you to wear a face mask (also mandated in the governor’s order), consider this: would you be willing to pay $1,000 to exercise that right? There is only so much more that our small businesses can shoulder alone.

Our neighbors need community support. Now is your time. What will you do to support our local businesses?

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