There's been a subtle change in my little town of Madison, Ohio as well as throughout Lake County, Ashtabula County, and I'd wager many other counties throughout the State of Ohio.
Several months ago, when shops and businesses first re-opened after the initial COVID-19 shutdown, I remember seeing someone in the local store who wasn't wearing a mask even though there was a large sign on the door to the store that said masks were required to enter.
As I approached the register, the cashier shook her head and said "man I wish more people would wear masks".
"Can't you tell him to go back out and put one on?" I asked. This seemed like a logical action to me at the time.
The girl just shook her head and replied that her manager had said that under no circumstances were they to approach anyone and tell them to wear a mask.
The manager was afraid for the safety of the cashiers and didn't want them confronting anyone.
Just in the last week or so, Governor DeWine has implemented a new COVID-19 mandate for local shops and businesses.
The core of the new mandate seems to be "make not only your employees but your customers wear masks or else".
The new mandate is responsible for this very subtle change in Ohio which could have huge implications. Signs on the entrances of businesses that once said "masks mandatory by order of the Governor" now include the phrase "no mask, no service".
For those of us who complied with the Governor's mandatory mask requirement and other preventative measures from the start of this thing, the new mandate may seem like no big deal.
But it could be a very big deal for businesses and local shops in throughout the State of Ohio. And it could even put those businesses out of business completely.
Consider those young adult cashiers, eighteen to say twenty-five, who are now placed in a position of telling a customer who is twice their age and possibly twice their height or weight, that they won't serve them if they aren't wearing a mask?
I'd wager some people won't be too happy about not being able to buy that package of toilet paper, their groceries, late-night snacks, or that 12-pack of beer on Friday night.
This puts cashiers and business owners in a very precarious position.
They are now required to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask and wearing it properly. If they don't, they could be penalized with a fine and even have their business closed down for a period of time.
What's going to happen if a customer comes in intoxicated and not wearing a mask or just in an irritable, don't-tell-me-what-to-do mood?
Are cashiers, staff, or other business owners really going to be safe if they start refusing to serve people who aren't wearing masks?
And if they don't enforce mask wearing by their customers, will any of our local businesses survive being shutdown for a period of days or even weeks?
I definitely don't see the harm in everyone wearing masks while in public places and around other people. Social distancing best practices saves lives--and following these practices definitely won't take lives.
But will forcing businesses to enforce social distancing practices actually do more harm than good? Could cashiers and other business owners be faced with violence when confronting non-mask wearers?
We've certainly seen this happen in some cases around the U.S. already.
Time will tell I guess for Ohio.
In the meantime, if you're headed out for a late night snack or some late night holiday shopping, you better make sure you have your mask with you.
Businesses are watching and now they are mandated to refuse you entry if you aren't properly wearing a mask.