Home News COVID-19 Situation Business owners seek cooperation from customers on face coverings

Business owners seek cooperation from customers on face coverings

Lisa Dunlap Photo A woman prepares to put on a face covering Saturday morning before entering the Roswell Mall on North Main Street. One store owner estimates that only about half of the people she sees wear masks, which are required by a state public health order.

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Now that state public health orders are again prohibiting indoor seating at restaurants and breweries starting Monday in an effort to slow the increases in COVID-19 cases statewide, some local business owners are asking for greater cooperation regarding face coverings and other public health orders.

The public, businesses and enforcement agencies need to work together to ensure that state orders are followed so that further business and individual restrictions aren’t reinstated, some business owners have said.

“If you’re going to say, ‘Everybody wear a mask,’ then let’s make sure we enforce it,” said Doug Wieser, vice president of Cattle Baron Restaurants. “And we do. We require our patrons to wear masks, even though a lot of people came without a mask. We supplied them.”

Wieser said that, without consistent use and enforcement, potential customers will continue either to argue about wearing face coverings or to walk out to find another business with less strict rules.

When face coverings for the general public were first recommended by some physicians, public health experts with the World Health Organization or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not agree whether people not diagnosed with COVID-19 needed to wear them.

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But even after most public health experts reached a consensus that face-coverings are effective in infection spread and states such as New Mexico required their use when people are outside their homes, some people still refuse to use them. On social media, they say that they consider face coverings a violation of their rights, a political message or an unnecessary hassle.

In the worst cases, disagreements have led to violent confrontations. There have been nine shootings nationwide from March to July 10 related to public health orders and health guidelines, according to the independent newsgroup The Trace. Four of the nine had to do with disputes over the use of face coverings.

The New Mexico State Police Department has not issued any actual citations for someone not wearing a face covering, according to Public Information Officer Ray Wilson, but he said the state police do respond to reports of public health order violations.

Roswell City Manager Joe Neeb said during a Thursday City Council meeting that the Roswell Police Department will “cooperate” with efforts to enforce public health orders. He added that police officers are focusing on education of the public and have been given extra supplies of masks so they can hand them out as needed. He said face-covering violations are misdemeanors and have a lower priority than other calls received.

“We know what our responsibilities are, and we will handle that,” said Neeb. “We enforce all laws. The Attorney General says that we may enforce these health orders, so we will do that. We will enforce through these health orders. The challenge with that is that it is the higher priority calls that will be handled first, and then we can work our way down.”

Through a July 6 letter sent to the National Governors Association, the Retail Industry Leaders Association has asked that all governors mandate face coverings and social distancing in their states. They said those measures are important tools, along with store efforts to sanitize and use COVID-safe practices, to keep businesses open. But the letter also said that enforcement should not be the job of retailers.

“Given the troubling incidents we have all seen on social media concerning aggressive customers refusing to wear a mask,” the letter stated, “we strongly recommend store employees not be charged with primary enforcement of mask mandates and that retailers not be fined for a customer’s non-compliance.”

A Goldman Sachs Research team found in a study released June 29 that a national face-covering mandate would reduce the daily growth rate of coronavirus infections from 1.6% to 0.6% and would serve the same function as business shutdowns, which would subtract 5% from the gross domestic product.

Pat Martin, owner of Martin’s Jewelry and Gifts in the Roswell Mall, said she thinks people should feel a social obligation to wear a mask out of concern for others and is surprised that about 50% of people she sees do not, even children.

“We are just a very small piece of a larger circle, and if we all do our part, it helps everyone,” she said.

Martin said she offers disposable face coverings to people who come in without them but still, some people refuse. In one instance, she said, a customer not wearing a face covering coughed the entire time in the store, which meant she had to close the store and sanitize surfaces afterward.

“The only way we are going to get around this is everyone doing our part,” she said, adding that she also thinks other rules about social distancing and occupancy limits need to be upheld, as well.

Kerry Moore, one of the owners of Chef Toddzilla’s, said that people need to think about how spreading infection rates statewide can mean more restrictions, which could mean more business failures.

“I know people are upset that they have to wear a face mask, and feel all the conspiracies that go with it, but the ones that they are hurting is going to be the businesses,” Moore said. “We have no choice. We have to follow the governor’s mandates. We have a state license. If we don’t follow those, they take our state license. And, if the business serves wine and alcohol, they pull those licenses, as well. So it is not a little fine for us. It is really not fair to hurt businesses when they are already suffering.”

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


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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.