About a month ago, there was a glimmer of hope that things were getting better. The number of COVID-19 cases were beginning to drop, and more tests were becoming available. Nonessential businesses were also allowed to reopen. If they complied with state and local health orders and public health requirements, businesses could resume operations and begin to bring their employees back to work. This was great. Reopening meant a road to economic recovery. It all seemed promising.
I know we were all excited to go back to our favorite restaurants and begin supporting local businesses again – I definitely was. While it was a different experience, it was great to see businesses implementing physical distancing rules and requirements to keep their workers and customers safe.
One thing that was not okay – was the surprising amount of people I saw who were not wearing masks and not taking precautions.
I get it. It can be annoying having to wear a mask. They’re uncomfortable and they’re not fashionable. And if you wear glasses, I’m sure you share the annoyance I have of having them fog up. But as we clearly saw, people refusing to wear masks and refusing to follow recommended precautions resulted in another spike in COVID-19 cases, increased hospitalizations and businesses being forced to shut down once again.
I wear a mask not only because it keeps me safe, but because it more importantly keeps those around me safe. Refusing to wear a mask puts workers at grocery stores and workers at restaurants at an even higher risk. Those workers have families who, if they contract COVID-19 from someone who refuses to wear a mask, will pass it on to their family members. To me, that is undeniably problematic.
What’s even worse is businesses are now liable should a worker contract COVID-19 whether at home or at work. Employers are required to pay an employee workers compensation should they end up testing positive for COVID-19 and it is all thanks to those individuals who choose not to wear a mask when they’re out in public.
Evidence strongly supports that the use of masks helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Studies have clearly shown that masks alone reduce transmission, and, in other countries, masks have played a huge role in containing outbreaks. If the evidence and studies are there, why are we not following the evidence?
It is hard to deny the current divide in our country, but if you support businesses and want the economy to bounce back, the rules must be followed.
I want to get back to normal just as much as anyone else. I want businesses in the San Fernando Valley to begin thriving again. I want my kids to see their friends and have play dates. I want to go to a football game and cheer on the Rams. And of course, I want folks to be able to attend and enjoy the amazing events put on by the Valley Industry and Commerce Association.
I miss it all. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, and we’ve set ourselves back by refusing to wear masks. Businesses ultimately end up suffering when a person chooses not to wear a mask. The turn of events has been devastating. In the San Fernando Valley, a restaurant was forced to close its doors because their employees were being attacked for asking customers to wear a mask.
Too many businesses have permanently shut their doors due to COVID. And too many workers have lost their jobs as a result of those businesses shutting down. Added regulations and rules for employers have not made things any easier to operate. There is no reason why we should be making the situation worse.
If you are out at a grocery store, restaurant, bar or anywhere really, please wear a mask. It should not be a worker’s responsibility to ask a customer to wear a mask and then hear about why it is unconstitutional. This is not political, and we should not be making it political.
COVID-19 is real and so are all of the health and economic impacts we have seen over the last four months. It is going to take all of us doing our part as Angelenos and Californians to overcome this public health and economic crisis.
Do what’s right. Protect businesses. Protect workers. Wear a mask.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.