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SV and area businesses adjust to new mask rules

By JAYMIE L. WHITE Special to The Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE – On Tuesday, Aug. 10, the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador lifted its mask mandate for the first time in almost a year.

Wearing a non-medical face mask is no longer required in public indoor spaces for those age five and older, but it is still recommended, especially when it is hard to maintain proper social distancing.

Included in the lifted mask mandate are indoor spaces such as gyms, restaurants, retail stores, and personal care businesses such as hair salons and tattoo parlors. Even though the mask mandate has been lifted, many businesses are choosing to continue their mask policies.

Debbie’s Video Shoppe will keep the mask policy in place, as multiple employees are immunocompromised.

“We are continuing with masks for a while. My working partner and I are both compromised, so we are going to try it for a while and just see. People have asked us these past couple of days, ‘Do you want us to wear our mask?’ and we say yes,” said owner Debbie Wilton. “Everybody has been pretty good with wearing masks in my shop.”

Wilton got used to wearing a mask every day in her personal life, so it is second nature for her to wear it. Now she sees continuing to wear a mask as a way to keep herself and those around her as safe as possible.

“Keeping the mask on is important for protection. I even sell masks here,” said Wilton. “My husband was really sick, and I dressed and put on a mask every day. It is common and normal for me. They tell us it is up to our own discretion to wear them or not and I’m good with that.”

Small businesses aren’t the only ones continuing with the mask policies.

Western Health made an announcement on Monday, Aug. 9 that masks will still be required in all of their health care facilities, personal care homes and long-term care homes. They also strongly encourage wearing masks and practicing proper hand hygiene to protect yourself.

Crystal Aucoin, stylist and owner of The Hair Room, believes lifting the mandate will provide more comfort to her clients when they are visiting her business.

“Since the mandate has been lifted, I know people will breathe much easier and feel more comfortable while visiting my establishment,” said Aucoin. “It is now a personal preference if they choose to wear a mask rather than being told they have to.”

Aucoin sees this as an opportunity to get back to ‘normal’ but thinks that cleanliness and sanitation still need to be a top priority.

“I think it is important that life returns to an improved version of normal and I believe in the freedom of choice in regard to masks. With a high percentage of our population double vaccinated, masks will not be required in my business, but I will still maintain the extra level of sanitization that has been implemented since reopening in 2020,” said Aucoin.

She also said her business felt the pressure from COVID, but she was lucky enough to have a well-established clientele that were waiting for her when she reopened, regardless of a mask mandate.

“The closure in March 2020 hurt many businesses and mine was no exception,” said Aucoin. “Since I have been a stylist for almost 17 years, my clientele was ready and waiting as soon as I was allowed to reopen, and I don’t think masks or anything else would have kept them away after three months of being closed.”

The Town of Stephenville plans to follow the province’s lead in removing the mask mandate from their offices as well. Mayor Tom Rose said the province is in good shape now because of the mandate and the provincial leadership shown throughout the pandemic.

“I haven’t discussed this with management yet, but my recommendation is that the masks are coming off because it was the provincial directive,” said Rose. “We have followed their directive up to this point, and because of the great leadership during this pandemic from government and the health authorities, we are in good shape in this province. I think we have done very well in this province, in this town, and in this country.”

Rose said increasing vaccinations will be a pivotal step forward to help our community return to normal.

“We have over 80 per cent that have the single vaccination and over 60 per cent that have the second vaccination,” said Rose. “We really need to be over 80% because it’s going to be beneficial to our society and we can get back to our new normal.”

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