The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of Americans everywhere. Everything from social interactions to public gatherings has had to change. Businesses had to adapt to the sudden risk of close contact.
Some businesses are particularly impacted by mask mandates. Public places such as restaurants, supermarkets and gyms have had to oblige their patrons to follow new rules and regulations. This has led to difficulties for businesses, as enforcement of mask mandates and other regulations has not been easy. At the beginning of 2022, such regulations were rescinded, citing fewer cases as the reason.
Now that COVID cases have been rising, mask mandates have again been on the table for LA County. As of July 28, LA County has voted not to reintroduce a mandate, but the fluidity of the pandemic keeps the prospect very much alive. And that is what has some businesses on edge.
Mandates in the early days
In 2020, many businesses had to enforce the sudden mandates that were put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus. Until the introduction of vaccines quelled the rise in cases, the mandate stayed and changed everything, including the fortunes of many businesses.
Everything from supermarkets to department stores had to adhere to what was in place. Customers had to wear masks and maintain social distancing whenever possible — some locations required a limit on people in the building.
The effects on businesses have varied but there is one consistent fact: many citizens feel averse to being made to wear masks. Front-line workers were caught in the middle between enforcing these new rules and providing customer service.
In an article discussing the stresses of enforcing mask mandates, Ralphs worker Raquel Solario expressed her anxiety at the responsibility. “You fear that you might take the virus home to your family. I’ve had customers swear at me when we ask them to wear a mask,” Solario said to the LA Times.
The changes in the workplace
With such a stressful environment, businesses all around have voiced their concerns regarding a return of mask mandates. Robert Fleming, owner of the Eagle Rock bar Capri Club, expressed his own feelings about a potential mandate to the LA Times:
“I’m fearful and I’m nervous and there’s a lot of anxiety behind it,” he said. “I really dodged a bullet by not being open during a lot of this; I’m a little out of sorts, just because I have so many peers that went through so much.”
The anxiety of having to enforce mandates has not only put undue stress on businesses but has also affected workers as well. A change in expectations for prospective employers has made hiring difficult for some businesses. In an article on the subject, Gallup asked 13,085 employees what was important to them when accepting a new job offer.
In it, the study found that employees emphasized pay and well-being as being necessary for their next job. Other things employees were looking for were increased income, benefits, greater work-life balance and job stability.
This change in job hunting has left many employers in the service industry with more vacancies than actual workers. While this is felt nationally, it’s not uncommon to find at least one or two businesses in LA with signs asking for patience due to short-staffing.
With no mask mandate being implemented, businesses now have one less thing to worry about in the workplace. However, the constant spikes in cases and hospitalizations have kept everyone hyper-vigilant and stressed for the next potential wave.
In a press briefing, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer gave some thoughts on the possibility of cases continuing to decrease. “We’re feeling pretty confident we should be in that medium community next Thursday,” Ferrer said. “But should things change, we will revisit this decision, obviously.”
Only time will tell what else will change for businesses and employees alike.
For a discussion on how reliable at-home testing is, click here.
You can reach Eloin Barahona-Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.