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Masks or not? Local company decides to require them

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Lisa Dunlap Photo Dodson Lumber Co. Inc., a family-owned business, is requiring all on-site employees to wear masks now.

A Roswell businessman is requiring employees and anyone else on business premises to wear face masks, saying that he wants to take steps to protect people from the coronavirus and to speed up the region’s recovery from the public health emergency.

He could be acting ahead of public policy on his decision. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday in a press interview that state health officials were recommending face masks when people are out in public.

Steve Dodson, one of the managers of family-owned Dodson Lumber Co. Inc., that has been operating since 1956, decided Tuesday to institute a policy that all on-site employees and anyone entering the company’s yard wear masks.

“It’s lives and lives here,” he said. “We don’t want people to get the virus, and we also want them to have a paycheck. If we had a positive test, we kind of believe with a quarantine situation that we would be set back two weeks, and that would imperil payroll and everything else.”

Dodson had located some masks under his sink to supply himself and his 23 employees, most of whom have to work on-site to keep the business operations going. Now his wife and mother-in-law are sewing washable masks, with the goal of providing two masks for each worker.

He said his employees have accepted the decision, although he acknowledges that it can be difficult for some.

“It seems like a small discomfort that might make a difference,” Dodson said.

The business also has instituted other safety protocols, including social distancing, increased cleaning routines, remote work for some office employees, restrictions on exchange of paperwork from outside vendors, and discontinuation of employee breaks, which used to be a time when people gathered closely together to socialize.

The company is a wholesale lumber distributor for retail suppliers, so Dodson said it receives trucks from northeastern states and some areas where COVID-19 cases are extremely high.

Getting outside truckers to accept the requirement has been more challenging, he said, but added that most customers and vendors have adapted.

In Roswell, the practice of using masks outside of medical and health care operations was not widespread as of Friday, but a foreign-made video shared by a local medical practice has been circulating that urges homemade masks as “partial” protection, even for those who have no symptoms.

Dodson personally thinks that the practice should become more common in this region.

“If Chaves County is not hit as hard as other places, then we will be back under normal conditions again quicker,” he said. “We don’t want this to be the new normal. We want to go back to regular business soon.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.