As states begin to reopen, most store and restaurant owners are putting the safety of their staff and customers first by requiring individuals to wear protective gear like masks. But not everyone agrees with these precautions, and some business owners nationwide are taking steps to protest and resist safety measures amid the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants and bars across the country are beginning to attract crowds, with some establishments taking little to no precautions in mitigating the spread of the virus.
In Texas, Liberty Tree Tavern owner Kevin Smith decided that while he would change seating arrangements, he would not allow mask-wearing individuals into his bar. Under the impression that safety measures were being overdone and not necessary, Smith decided to post a sign outside of his bar’s door stating, “Sorry, no mask allowed.”
Although his county no longer requires residents to wear them, people in the area continue to wear masks, he told The Washington Post. “If we’re only allowed to be at 25 percent capacity, I want them to be the 25 percent of people that aren’t p—–, that aren’t sheep,” Smith said. “Being scared all the time isn’t good for your health. It suppresses your immune system.” Smith argued that not only was wearing a mask unnecessary but that it prevents bartenders from properly doing their job, including seeing an individual’s face to verify their identity. In conversation with the Post, he questioned how one could drink a beer while covering their face.
A regular at Smith’s bar, Charles Chamberlain, told the Austin American-Statesman that although he has been hospitalized multiple times, including for a period of one year, he believes observing quarantine is not living and plans to keep visiting the bar despite its lack of safety measures. “You should have a choice of what you want to do,” he told the American-Statesman. “If I get it, I get it. If I do, I’ll deal with that. You can’t live forever.”
Despite arguments by some people that masks make no difference, experts and researchers have found that wearing surgical masks can reduce the spread of the coronavirus by up to 75%. In order to stop the spread of the virus, medical experts including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending individuals cover their faces in public, especially in places where social distancing may be difficult.
But Smith isn’t alone in his thinking, as dozens of business owners are prohibiting customers from wearing masks. According to The Washington Post, in California, a flooring store not only prohibits customers from wearing a mask but encourages physical contact including hugs. In addition, a campground owner in Wisconsin said she would approach those using her facilities while wearing masks as she would “a robbery in progress.”
Earlier this month, Daily Kos reported on a Colorado restaurant hosting large crowds on Mother’s Day despite a state order limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery. Footage of the restaurant went viral, depicting only one person in the establishment with a mask. The restaurant also hung the sign “ATTENTION: Our freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins. … If you are afraid to be within 6 feet of another person, do not enter this business!”
While these businesses are requiring customers to not wear masks, New York businesses are being encouraged to do the opposite. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that state businesses can refuse entrance to anyone who doesn’t wear a face mask. In a series of tweets, he emphasized the importance of public health and the effectiveness of masks. “No Mask – No Entry,” he said in another tweet. Under his executive order, store owners have the ability to decide whether or not customers are required to wear face coverings or masks to enter, NPR reported. “You don’t want to wear a mask — fine,” he said at a news conference Thursday. “But you don’t have a right to then go into that store if that store owner doesn’t want you to.”
Whether or not you believe the seriousness of this deadly pandemic, it does not give you permission to put another person’s life at risk. Wearing a mask and following safety measures affects not only an individual’s own life and health, but everyone who they come in contact with. It is selfish to believe that because you are unafraid of contracting the virus, you do not have to follow safety measures. That’s a decision that could potentially harm thousands of people.