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For five blistering days, most of what we heard about was face coverings — also known as masks. Yes votes, no votes, “education,” “marketing plans,” litigation, masks having some imaginary connection to the state’s economy and for reasons that should be criminal — politics as well.
All over as simple a thing as trying to save lives — our own, our friends, our family, our community.
By Friday, most of us were numb and confused. The adults needed to take control. They did so in such a way that any executive order signed by a one-term governor trying to bully local governments would have the impact of a dying fly.
The private sector stood up and won’t be seated any time soon. Starting with Starbacks and later including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Publix, Target, Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Home Depot, some of the biggest names in retail make it easy for all to understand: Wear a mask or stay out of our stores.
By midday Friday, Harbin Clinic did the same, requiring all patients and visitors to all offices to wear masks during the entirety of their stay. We expect others to follow. And soon.
Unlike state and some local leaders afraid of angering their “base” supporters, the retailers are just putting it out there: no mask, no entry. They’re moving beyond the most ridiculous political issue in our lifetimes: That is, where “liberals” wear masks and red-meat conservatives don’t.
Before we cut off comments on our Facebook group last week, we saw some of the “I’ll never shop there again” quotes. That chorus grew louder after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey adopted a mandatory mask law as well.
Some will ask if the private sector has the clout? Look no further than the owner of the NFL’s Washington football team. It took multimillion-dollar contract threats to bring about change the owner had resisted for years.
The mask mandate is different but it also shows strong commitment to communities and consumers from the private sector. And for good reason. The retailers don’t want another shutdown; look at the causality report from the first stretch this year. No one wants that to happen. So how do we avoid it? By wearing a mask in public.
The bigger question is what’s next on the local level — the independents, the moms-and-pops. Are any of them mandating masks or are they afraid of the Scarlet L (for liberal)? Are we seeing local chambers of commerce step up or downtown development groups or tourist councils or others by mandating mask use by respective members? If not, why not? (And please don’t hide behind bylaws or whatever).
The continued health of area residents and visitors are in play here.
We’ve taken the matter into our own hands. We won’t shop at stores that forgo masks. We’ve already quit outdoor dining at some of our favorite restaurants because servers weren’t wearing masks. We suggest you do the same.
The major players in the private sector have filled the vacuum of leadership. Now is the time for the locals to do the same — while we still have time to prevent the next shutdown. Shop local? Yes, but also shop safe.
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