Coronavirus diary: Masks & secondhand smoke

I’ve been a little dismayed by the suddenness of the reopening phases. For the Phase 2 reopen, the announcement was a 24-hour notice. I quickly looked at the guidelines and posted on Facebook that we were dropping the mask requirement for customers.

The reaction was quick from one customer, and others chimed in–they didn’t want us to drop the requirement. Were they being too paranoid? Were they just the loud minority? I promised to think about it.

My post the next day sums that process up:

We are going back to facial coverings being REQUIRED for shopping at Browsers’.

I spent a lot of time last night thinking about things, looking at infection rates, listening to customers & others’ feedback, listening to my daughter who sees what happens in the grocery store where she works (significantly less than half the customers wear masks, and social distancing is not happening), knowing that I’ve got appointments for five customers coming from Portland in the next three weeks, one from the coast, I saw a good customer from Eugene yesterday, and another from Salem, etc.–in other words, it’s not just about Linn or Benton counties. Browsers’ happens to be good enough of a bookstore to draw people from a larger area than our immediate community, and I need to help make sure we aren’t also drawing the virus here.

Furthermore, the protests in the past week or so have been an amazing expression of American freedom, from people across the political & racial spectrums. I actually feel hopeful that some positive change will come out of these protests! However, it’s undeniable that they will contribute to the spread of coronavirus. So–we need to take extra precautions to slow or stop that spread.

So, it looks like Phase 2 isn’t any different than Phase 1 as far as Browsers’ goes.

For those of you that can/will not wear masks for whatever reason, we are still happy to do curbside pick up or mail.

Thank you all for your understanding and patience. None of us knows the right way to do things, frankly. I’m doing the very best I can, and if I’m going to make mistakes, I’d rather it be because I’m too cautious instead of too cavalier.

One of the comments from my first Facebook post was from a local resident who said that cloth masks don’t do anything to stop the spread of the virus. As much as anything else, that comment stuck with me and made me change my mind and go back to requiring masks.

On the one hand, I feel weird about being one of the few businesses in the area that requires masks. A big part of my motivation for dropping the mask requirement was this: I am a bookseller, not a health cop. I’d rather people take responsibility for their own actions. But–I remembered the guy whose mind is made up that masks are ineffective.

Ultimately, I came to this conclusion: we allow people to smoke cigarettes. We do not allow them to do so in public buildings–because secondhand smoke kills innocent bystanders. Such it is for the virus. You can go to an Ozark pool party if you must, but when you go into a building, wear the mask or you’re putting others’ lives at risk.