Four month hindsight: Businesses still face decisions with mask requirements

As of July 26, 2021, 22.3% of the Buchanan County population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine according to statistics from the St. Joseph Health Department

It’s been roughly four months since St. Joseph officials did away with the city-wide mask mandate, leaving face-covering policies up to individual businesses.

Some businesses did away with them completely, others made them optional and some kept them strictly required. Those decisions came at a time when the COVID-19 vaccine was not fully available to the public.

In March, Nesting Goods decided to require face coverings for employees and customers. Since then, those requirements have eased to only recommending face coverings of customers although employees continue to wear them. But as new COVID-19 cases in Buchanan County have risen this summer, owner Cris Coffman said she is likely to require masks once again for customers entering Nesting Goods. 

When the city-wide mask ordinance ended in late March, Pappy’s Grill & Pub decided to take a unique approach. Owner Michelle Margulies did not require face masks for her customers but had her employees wear them while on the clock. However, her business incentivized mask-wearing by offering a 15% discount on a customer’s bill if that person chose to wear a mask in the restaurant. She said the decision to require masks for herself and the employees was mostly well-received. The bulk of the criticism came from social media.

“They were more concerned about me forcing my staff to get vaccinated, which was not the case whatsoever. At the end of the day, I have all but two people vaccinated,” Marguilies said.

Looking back on her decision, Marguilies said it was most definitely the right one.

“My intent was just to keep my kitchen safe so I could stay in business, and it accomplished that,” she said. “It did what it needed to do and I had a lot of very loyal customers.”

Pappy’s no longer offers a discount to customers for wearing a mask inside the restaurant and, as of Wednesday, did not require employees to wear them either. But now that the Centers for Disease Control is recommending fully vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings indoors, this has prompted the restaurant to ask their front-of-house employees to wear masks once again, which Marguilies said was not met with any groans from her wait staff or hosts.

On another end of the business precautions to avoid a COVID outbreak, keeping a business sanitized is also a priority. Unique Creations didn’t feel obligated to require masks for their customers or employees because owners felt they were using health safety standards by wiping down surfaces with antimicrobial sprays to avoid the virus spreading. However, customers could still wear masks and stylists complied when a customer requested an employee wear a face covering when working on someone's hair. That policy is still in place today, but as they watch new COVID cases day-by-day, things could change, according to co-owner Adam Meisinger.

“We just kind of follow what the health department here in St. Joe recommends, and if they recommend we should be wearing masks or something to that nature we’ll take it serious and we’ll go ahead and do that,” Meisinger said.

Jacob Meikel can be reached at jacob.meikel@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @NPNowMeikel.

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