Outside Looking In

Masking the issue

Minneota Police Chief Bill Bolt isn't opposed to people wearing masks, but he is opposed to the mask-shaming that had been going on locally in the weeks that led up to the governor's mandate that masks must be worn when entering a business or indoor event.
Not everyone is adhering to the mask rule, however. And people are not afraid to give their opinions why they refuse to wear one.
And a local retail outlet, a minimum of five percent were not wearing masks this past weekend, yet workers did not ask any of them to put on a mask, nor did they ask them to leave the store.
I often forget to bring a mask with me when entering a store and, of course, I only forget when my vehicle is parked a long way from the front door of the business. On some occasions, I have unintentionally entered a store without a mask, gone about my shopping, then realize my face is bare when I am in the checkout line. But I have yet to be asked to put a mask on by an employee.
It's the same thing for wearing seatbelts, talking on your phone or texting while driving, purchasing a permit to operate a golf cart or ATV on public streets, leashing your pets and more. We may not all agree with the rule or the law, but these things are put in place for a reason and you are obligated to follow them.
I sat down with Chief Bolt recently and discussed the mask issue.
"Back in June I was reading comments on social media and both sides were mask shaming," he said. "Those people wearing masks were being shamed and those people choosing not to wear masks were being shamed."
Bolt then began hearing some of those same comments in public and, "as time moved, they have become more and more venomous."
Gov. Walz issued the executive order on July 22 requiring Minnesotans to wear masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The mandate requires individuals to wear a face covering in all indoor businesses and public indoor spaces, unless you are working alone.
When a few people were seen not wearing a mask at businesses in and around the area, I asked employees in several different communities why management was not asking their customers to don a face covering, offering them one to wear, or asking them to leave if they refused to wear one. The response was basically the same in each place of business.
"We don't make someone wear a mask," the employees responded. "We don't want to argue with them about it and we don't want to cause a scene."
One manager at a Marshall retail business was recently asked why a female customer a few feet away was not required to wear a mask. Without hesitating, the employee told me, "They will be leaving soon."
What they really mean: "We want their business so we turn the other cheek."
According to Walz's executive order, businesses must take reasonable steps to enforce the mask requirement. Business owners must also communicate to workers and customers about their mask requirement. And they must post at least one visible sign instructing people that face covering are required when entering their building.
A release from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MDEED) stated that businesses should: offer a customer a mask and request that they leave if they refuse to wear one, or inform them that curbside pick-up is available if your business offers that service. If necessary, call law enforcement.
"I haven't been called by any businesses here in Minneota," Bolt said. "But I have seen some people not wearing masks that should be."
Businesses are not expected to enforce the mask requirement when it is unsafe to do so, MDEED said in the release. They are also not allowed to physically remove workers or customers who refuse to comply.
State officials announced that they expect businesses and individuals to voluntarily comply with the mask requirement, although enforcement is not the goal; rather, the goal of the order is to advise Minnesotans that wearing a mask will protect them and their friends and family.
But some businesses are finding ways around the mandate. Green Lake Cruises in Spicer, MN are not pressing its passengers to wear masks even though they are in close proximity to one another. A post on the company's Facebook page noted that if a passenger is not wearing a mask, it will be assumed that it's because of a medical condition, mental health condition or a disability that makes wearing a face covering intolerable.
Some see Walz's executive order as an intrusion into their personal freedoms. That was carried out recently when a couple was kicked out of Walmart in Marshall after wearing face coverings emblazoned with swastikas. Others in the store were caught on a video that went viral near the checkout line arguing with the couple.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office enforces the mask mandate when it comes to businesses. Individual violators can be cited with a petty misdemeanor and fined $100. Business owners can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined $1,000 or even jailed up to 90 days. Civil penalties can also be levied against businesses which can come with a fine of up to $25,000.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: If there is a baby boom because of couples having to stay home so much due to the coronavirus pandemic, when the year 2033 comes around, does that mean there will be a whole bunch of quaranteens?

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