Some stores are making it clear that customers must mask up to enter.
At Mohan’s Wines and Liquor in Queensbury, four yellow handwritten signs say: “No mask, stay out, period! No excuses.”
Customers there can call for curbside pickup instead.
Then there’s the nearby Walmart on Route 9 in Queensbury, where at least one masked employee is stationed at every entrance, but they can’t close the door on unmasked customers.
Instead, they loudly thank those who wear masks and ask others politely to mask up.
“I say, ‘Masks are required. Please wear a mask,’” said security worker Brian Smith.
But people give him excuses.
“‘I have asthma,’ many times I hear that. I have to be very polite,” he said.
Asthma can be no joking matter.
Pember Museum educator Bernadette Hoffman has asthma that is triggered by some of the heavy-duty cleaners used to eliminate coronavirus. She has taken to wearing a clear plastic shield that covers her entire face, rather than a mask.
Recently, she had an asthma attack at a grocery store.
“I was coughing and everyone was looking at me, you know, they assume you have it,” she said. “I got out my inhaler, but it was jammed, and with that mask on I couldn’t breathe. I was crying and coughing.”
At the Granville museum, which is reopening on July 14, Hoffman will allow face shields instead of masks because she is so aware of how hard it is to breathe through a mask with asthma.
Other people object to masks because they are uncomfortable.
“It’s very hard. With the heat, it’s a lot harder,” said Angel Banguibler of Queensbury, who wore a mask into Walmart but pulled it under her nose.
She added that she wants to follow safety precautions, but she’s not sure what to do. Her daughter, 25, caught coronavirus at work at a hospital in Boston.
“She was wearing a mask,” Banguibler said.
But she also doesn’t take the virus lightly. Her daughter got sick three months ago and is still recovering.
In New York state, coronavirus cases continued to go up after the state shut down. But 18 days after officials began saying masks could reduce the spread, the number of new cases every day began to decline. Officials now think masks prevent people from spreading the virus in the contagious period before they begin to have symptoms. But masks only protect others, not the wearer, and only work if people wear them before they feel sick. They have not been widely accepted in the United States.
Workers at stores said that, generally, if they asked a customer to wear a mask, the customer complied. But some workers said they felt uncomfortable about asking.
At Stewart’s, where clerks are not allowed to speak to the media, a Glens Falls area worker on Wednesday said she is not getting support from management to enforce the mask requirement. Indeed, her manager did not speak up as a customer entered without a mask, shopped, stood in line and bought items.
“Stewart’s is not enforcing it. We can only request,” said the worker, who asked to be anonymous so that she would not lose her job.
Most of the time, she simply makes eye contact with customers as they enter without a mask.
“They look at me and turn around and go back to the car to get their mask,” she said.
A Stewart’s spokeswoman said every employee had been given a script on how to “remind” customers to wear masks, but she said the concern was that customers would attack the employee for daring to raise the topic.
“We scripted it to keep these conversations from turning,” spokeswoman Erica Komoroske said, citing an incident in Schenectady in which two customers got into a fight over one of them not wearing a mask. She also noted a bus driver in France was attacked after insisting a passenger wear a mask.
“This has happened,” she said. “We wish everyone would wear a mask in our shops. It is very easy to wear a facial covering for a few minutes.”
The Stewart’s televisions and gas pumps repeatedly ask customers to wear masks, she noted.
At independent businesses, workers are much more forthright about the rules.
Fountain Square Outfitters in Glens Falls requires masks, and has hand sanitizer and masks by the door.
“We will offer them one upfront at the door,” said associate Andrew Petrie. “If they don’t want to put one on, we ask them to return later.”
So far, everyone he has asked has put one on, he said.
Likewise, at Steve’s Place, a restaurant in Glens Falls, the owner has no hesitation about approaching people who walk in without a mask. She needs them to wear masks to protect her staff, owner Christine Vamvalis-Haley said.
“We have had a few people try” to enter without a mask, she said. “There are those people who don’t want to. I just tell them you have to have a mask to come in. You can take it off when you sit down.”
They tend to comply, then, putting the mask back on to go to the bathroom or check out.
“Everybody’s been very good,” she said.
She noted that even those who didn’t want to wear a mask seemed ready to follow the rule.
“They have it in their pocket,” she said.
A customer who ignored the rule at Stewart’s said he was ready to put it on if anyone said it was required.
“I do have a mask. I wear it in some stores. I wear it when I have to,” said Gary Baker of Glens Falls.
But no one asked him to mask up at Stewart’s, so he didn’t put it on. He’s not worried about the virus.
“If it happens, it happens. If it don’t, it don’t,” he said. “Nothing to do about it.”
Others said that they wear a mask in public to protect others.
“I don’t want to give you anything,” said Rick St. John of Glens Falls, who wore a mask on a trip to a CVS in Queensbury. “I think it’s a courtesy.”
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