Business owners: Should customers have to wear masks?

Posted at 4:59 PM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-20 00:11:33-04

With coronavirus cases spiking in Nueces County, county leaders have stressed the importance of wearing masks.

Now they’re working on an order which would make masks mandatory for everyone inside businesses. As they consider language for that order, one Port Aransas business owner wonders what took so long.

“They should have said this two months ago, not now. It’s a day late and a dollar short,” said Linda Hailoua.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit home with Hailoua. A native Italian, she’s seen what the virus did to her home country. Hailoua has required masks in her restaurant, the Venetian Hot Plate, since before Gov. Greg Abbott reopened dining rooms.

“It should be a given at this point, middle of June, we shouldn’t be talking about whether we need it or not,” said Hailoua.

In response in new cases spiking statewide, Bexar County issued its mask order Wednesday.

After Gov. Abbott said he wouldn’t challenge it, Hidalgo and Cameron counties soon followed. Since then, at least five other counties have issued orders forcing businesses to require masks.

“When you’re in a business, you should have an expectation as a customer that we’re keeping each other safe,” said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales. “That’s what public health is all about.”

Bexar County’s order allows diners to take off their mask once their seated, but requires them when walking to their table or to the restroom. That’s the way Hailoua has done it all along.

“It is a matter of respect,” said Hailoua. “Not just myself, I have all of my employees to take care of. I’m also responsible for my customers.”

Canales says a mask order is better than the alternative; going back to restrictions on which businesses can open.

“If wearing these masks helps us reduce the spread of the virus and help keep (businesses) open, I think that’s a great balancing act,” said Canales.

Meanwhile, Hailoua has one thing to say for those who don’t want to wear a mask inside businesses.

“If you don’t like a mask, imagine how much you’re going to love a ventilator,” said Hailoua.

Hailoua says businesses here have to be even more vigilant about precautions because of how many visitors have been coming to town.