While Joplin City Council members are again meeting in a special session tonight to discuss a mandatory mask ordinance, several local businesses have already made a decision when it comes to requiring their customers to wear masks, citing public safety over profit margins.
“We always thought it was the way to go,” said Jason Hurley, manager of Hurley’s Heroes Comics and Games, 824 S. Main St. in Joplin. For the last two weeks, customers entering the business have been required to wear a mask at all times inside, he said. “It is the easiest thing that you can do to help your fellow citizens, and I don’t know know why you wouldn’t do it.”
The business's requirement — similar to the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” credo from the 1970s, in which private business owners are allowed to enforce their own dress codes as long as it’s not discriminatory — was implemented the same day Joplin council members narrowly rejected a plan on June 24 that would have required Joplin residents to wear masks in public when social distancing was no longer applicable.
“The City Council wouldn’t do it for us, so we just did it ourselves,” Hurley said Tuesday afternoon. The masking rule “was something we felt was necessary for our safety and the safety of our community.”
For those who don’t have a mask upon entering the store, paper masks can be purchased for $1, Hurley said. For those who refuse to wear a mask, they are politely asked to leave.
“Most people understand,” Hurley said. “I haven’t had anybody throw a fit or anything like that.”
A similar in-store masking rule has been in effect for some time inside Joplin’s Goodwill store and donation center, 2102 S. Range Line Road.
“There’s been a little bit of grumbling about it,” said Nicole Edge, first assistant manager, “but the overwhelming majority are happy to do it because it’s safer."
After the mandatory lockdown nationwide, the popular thrift store reopened to the public in early May.
“We had customers that were coming in the following weeks after we had reopened, they were shopping with their moms or whoever, and they told us, ‘We wouldn’t have brought (their loved ones) in here if everyone else wasn’t wearing masks,’” Edge said. The masking rules “made more customers in the more at-risk age groups want to come here to shop. That’s something we’ve heard a lot from our customers."
When possible, masks are handed out to customers who don’t possess one — cloth ones, with the Goodwill logo on the front. For those who don’t have masks, can’t get one or refuse to wear one, “we hate to turn them away,” Edge said, “but we sometimes have to.”
Signs explaining the mask requirement have been posted on the front doors and along the front windows. Edge said customers are encouraged to come in to see if there are any masks available for them to use while shopping.
The state’s largest doctor organization, the Missouri State Medical Association, recently launched a social media campaign designed to encourage Missouri residents to wear masks when outdoors or inside businesses. Missouri residents can participate by creating mask-wearing selfies and using the hashtag #MaskUpMo before sharing or retweeting them to friends and family.
“It’s proven that this disease is transferred by droplets, right? So put a mask on your face. Clearly that’s going to get in the way of the transfer of that virus between two people," said Jeff Howell, with the Missouri State Medical Association. "It’s not foolproof, by any means, but it certainly helps. There’s a reason why surgeons in the operating room have worn masks the last 100 years; it’s to keep the patient from getting sick. They don’t do it for themselves. They do it for their patients.
“It’s the standard of care. And it should be the standard of care when we go into Kmart or Walmart or Bass Pro or whatever,” he said. “It’s just being a good citizen.”
While Suzanne’s Natural Foods, 3106 Connecticut Ave. in Joplin, doesn’t have an in-store mask requirement in place as of yet, owner Suzanne Nelson was leaning toward creating signs that would “strongly encourage” customers to wear them inside her store when she caught wind of the special council session.
The overwhelming majority of her customers already wear their masks when visiting her store — which is good, Nelson said with a chuckle, “since we’re a health food store.”
She said she has insisted since early March that her employees stay masked. The store was considered an essential service during the national lockdown; Nelson locked her store’s doors and served her customers through drive-thru windows or curbside pickup for six weeks. When it reopened to the public in early May, the masking requirement stayed in place.
“I never wanted my guard down,” Nelson said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve been buying masks as much as I can — lots of hand-washing and hand-sanitizing. I’m not messing around with this. This is serious. And we need to take it seriously.
“I was raised in an era where I flopped around in the back seat of a car without a seat belt, and I was (always around) secondhand smoking. Now, seat belts are required and there’s no smoking in public places. And everybody has adapted to that. We can easily adapt to this mask wearing as well.”
It may not be fun, Nelson said, “but it sure beats the alternative of getting sick or getting others sick.”