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To Mask or Not to Mask

On Main St., a split verdict

by Eve Silberman

From the October, 2021 issue

The sign on the door of Vault of Midnight is blunt: "Masks Required." Its neighbor Moosejaw appeals to a higher authority: "While it is not required, the CDC recommends that all persons regardless of vaccination status should wear a mask indoors." In Main St.'s next block, M Den has no sign at all. Neither does Ayla & Co. In a mid-'September walk, places with no declared policy slightly outnumbered those with one.

Since Michigan dropped its mask mandate in June, it's each business for itself when it comes to Covid precautions. Sometimes, people who arrive unmasked "are agitated, but they comply," says a young clerk at Shinola (it supplies masks if needed).

Occasionally, there's an incident. Last winter, when masks were still mandated, a young guy got in a shouting match with Big City Small World Bakery owner Scott Newell, who finally escorted him outside. "He called the police," Newell recalls. "The police said I should have called them. The dumb guy in me had to be macho about it."

Standing firm is not just a guy thing. If arrivals are unmasked, "We don't let them in," says Liz DellaRocco, the manager of Vault. "I don't leave a lot of room for argument." But the comic book fix is so strong that most customers obligingly slip on store-provided masks.

Employees were masked everywhere we went. Moosejaw's manager says he's encouraged that "a lot of people read our sign and put on a mask." But results of the recommended-but-not-required approach are mixed. Overall, he says, "it's about 'fifty-fifty" whether customers mask or not.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2021.]


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