I live in a conservative state, and it’s obvious that’s the case from just a brief skim of our town’s local Facebook group.
The group’s latest controversy has been over businesses requiring customers to wear masks as our state begins re-opening in phases. This is part of a larger trend as many national/global businesses are beginning to require them as well.
Last week, our local Kroger turned customers away at the door if they weren’t wearing a mask, and Costco posted this notice this week:
Many individuals in our town’s Facebook group have complained that these requirements are “trampling their constitutional rights,” and that they shouldn’t be “required” to wear a mask anywhere. One woman compared it to Sharia law, as if requiring customers in a store to wear masks is the same as requiring women to wear burkas everywhere.
These and other arguments are ridiculous, and let me walk you through why.
1. These are not laws.
A “requirement” isn’t the same as a law. Have you ever seen signs posted on businesses that say, “No shirts, no shoes, no service?” This is actually not based on any law.
No U.S. state or federal law requires patrons to wear shoes inside a business, even if it is one where food is sold. In the case of businesses that sell food, the laws only refer to employees, and surprisingly, our state health inspection code and the state code of every other state in the U.S. includes nothing about employee dress requirements (so I guess an employee can go around shoeless and the business can’t be failed based on that).
Conclusion: they can require you wear a mask while you are in their store, but you can take your mask off as soon as you leave.
2. Stores don’t have to provide service to anyone — as long as they aren’t being discriminatory.
The 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act prohibits any place of public accommodation, which includes businesses, restaurants, hotels, etc., from refusing to serve a customer based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The Americans With Disabilities Act extended that coverage to include people with disabilities. Many states offer similar protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, but there is no such federal law.
A store owner can deny service to individuals who are soliciting on property, seeming to be intoxicated, acting rowdy, have extreme body odor, or for any other reason that isn’t discriminatory. They can enforce whatever they want as long as they consistently uphold it.
3. You have a choice.
If you don’t like the requirements of a certain business, you have the freedom not to shop there.
If you still want to shop there, but don’t want to wear a mask, you could take advantage of contactless delivery options if they are offered, or hire a personal shopper.
4. Masks prevent infection.
While science may be divided on how effective wearing such masks is, the CDC recommends wearing them in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
The purpose? “To slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”
One of the memes I’ve seen going around has been this one.
Yes, condoms do help prevent pregnancy, but they also help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Wearing a mask helps prevent infection, and one study revealed that a non-fitted mask can prevent the passage of up to 100% of infectious respiratory droplets.
5. Wearing a mask is an act of kindness, not repression.
When I go out, I don’t know who I’m going to be near. Yes, those who are immunocompromised should care for themselves by staying away from public places, but not everyone has that privilege. Some people who have medical conditions must work at this time because they’re an essential worker who needs the money, or they have no one else that can pick up food or other items for them.
To show respect and kindness for all of the people I may be around, I wear a mask. It doesn’t harm me to wear one. It’s a laughably minor inconvenience that I know can protect the people I’m around.
6. It makes you look responsible, not weak.
When Mike Pence recently visited Mayo Clinic, he chose not to don a mask despite Mayo Clinic’s rule that “all patients and visitors [must] wear a face covering or mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Pence’s response was that he and those around him are tested regularly, and because he doesn’t have coronavirus, he saw no reason to wear a mask. It’s more likely, though, that he chose not to wear one because he thought it would make him look weak.
Practicing proper safety precautions while protecting the more vulnerable of us is responsible. Firefighters wear protective equipment when they’re saving people, and they look very strong while doing so.
It is likely that more and more businesses will require customers to wear masks as the country begins to reopen, so this will need to be something we grow to accept. We don’t always have to like what we have to accept, but we do have to deal with it.