Face masks are quickly becoming something many want to have on hand when running errands, particularly as more stores move to make them mandatory or strongly suggest customers wear them as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Walmart stores across the country have mandated the use of masks with staff stationed at the entrance to ensure that is happening. Those without a mask are directed to the customer service desk to get one and beginning Aug. 29 all Real Canadian Superstore locations in the country will require masks be worn inside their stores.
In a similar move Bear’s Paw Quilt owner Ruth Headley is now asking customers to wear masks while shopping at the Whitehorse store, as she and her staff are.
Though it’s a strong suggestion and not a mandate for customers, Headley said she began wearing the mask inside the shop (with the exception of when she is eating or drinking) about a week ago. She’s asking customers to do the same as a way of supporting those who required to wear them and as a way to protect the many local “beloved” customers at the store who have helped support the business as it struggled through a difficult summer without the usual tourist traffic.
Since the border with British Columbia opened in July, the shop is seeing more customers from B.C. and Headley described wearing a mask as “the sensible thing to do.”
“We have to do it to protect ourselves,” she said, noting that many of her customers and staff are part of an older population, making mask-wearing that much more important.
She’s also hoping as more people wear masks while out and about that it will become more normalized.
It appears to be happening. Prior to making her decision around masking a week ago, Headley said there were sometimes customers who would come into the store with a mask on and quickly take it off if they noticed no one else was wearing one.
Similarly since last week, she has noticed more customers taking out a mask out of a pocket or purse and putting it on voluntarily as soon as they see everyone else in the store wearing one.
While Headley is excited to begin the annual fall quilting classes her shop offers with distancing measures in place, she said she’s hopeful that by the time Sept. 12 comes around customers will be accustomed to donning a mask inside.
On Sept. 12 the store will, as it does annually just ahead of the classes starting, display the various quilts that will be featured in the fall classes with a number of regulars coming into the store to take a look.
As she gets ready for the fall quilting season, Headley is also seeing many new faces in the shop as more people start making their own masks and come in looking for material.
“Fat quarters” — large quarter yard pieces of material — are selling quickly to those making masks along with elastic. While a new order is on its way, Headley said she’s nearly out of elastic.
With a number of locals already making masks, Headley is not making masks herself, but has on hand a couple of examples of masks that can be made for viewing. One is a fairly simple design that does not require a pattern, while the other would require a pattern.
Many are also getting patterns off the internet and coming into the store to get the material.
As more shops move towards mandating or strongly encouraging mask use, the City of Whitehorse is continuing to encourage transit users to wear a mask on city buses, but has no plans at this point to mandate the use for passengers as the City of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories is doing through a bylaw that was recently passed.
Masks are only mandatory for city staff sharing multi-occupant vehicles and the Chief Medical Officer of Health is advising, not mandating, that passengers wear masks, city spokesperson Myles Dolphin noted.
Answering questions during the Aug. 27 COVID update, Chief Medical Officer of Health Brendan Hanley maintained his position not to mandate mask use in certain places, though noting he has “the greatest respect for places of employment or places of commerce, that decide with due caution to institute these policies.”
“I think that again, it’s similar to the approaches I’ve taken with the schools, that masks should be always reserved for those places where physical space has not been able to be maintained,” he said.
“Fortunately, those situations are still few and far between, in our territory, so I think the increasing familiarization with masks, having masks available, especially as we’re going to be more and more required to use them for certain settings, is a great direction. But I have no interest at this point in making masks a mandatory measure from an overall policy point of view.”
With files from Haley Ritchie
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com