Numerous Mission stores and workers say they are happy with the new public health orders requiring customers and staff to wear masks in stores.
Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a number of new health mandates on Nov. 19, after a series of record-breaking days for cases and deaths in B.C.
The changes gives private businesses government support for the enforcement of the health rules, after many expressed frustration with customers not abiding by them.
People refusing to wear a mask will now face a $230 fine, which can be given out by police officers, bylaw officers and other provincial compliance officers. Repeat offenders can have charges recommended by Crown.
Workers at a large chain superstore in Mission, who wanted to remain anonymous because of corporate policy, said many staff were thankful upon hearing the new orders.
The store has had a mask policy in place since the summer, but workers faced a “plethora of problems” trying to enforce the rules themselves.
“[Some customers] started getting mad and ended up not listening to us. Some customers really got mad.”
They said that even staff in the back of the store are required to wear masks, and staff didn’t understand why it was so hard for customers.
“Why can’t they wear a mask when buying a bag of chips and a jug of milk?” the employee said. “It’s not as tough as unloading a truck, right?”
Greg Elford, the owner of The Penny coffeehouse in downtown Mission, said he thinks the new orders are a positive step, and he’s in full favour if it allows them to stay open.
“In our industry, once people are at a table eating and drinking they can remove their mask. So it’s not a huge ask to say when you’re in line or heading to the restroom or leaving, put on the mask,” he said. “But if you aren’t going to … We’re going to have to ask you to move along.”
Elford said they’re trying to juggle abiding by the health order, offering good customer service while not alienating people.
“People have been super understanding. We’ve had to give people masks here and there, but nobody’s been super obstinate.”
Pressland Printing has had to adapt to make new rules; first making masks mandatory and offering hand sanitizer in the store in the spring after the first lockdown, and then offering home delivery and curbside pickup for Mission residents, said president Jay Matte. He said they haven’t had any problems so far with their rules.
“We are all safer and flattening the curve,” Matte said. “Up to this point, we have not had anyone debate the four-person limit in our store, sanitizing when entering, and now the latest mandate, wearing a mask inside our little shop.”
Rocky Blondin, the owner of Independent Cycles, said customers and even staff have become much more consistent in their mask wearing since the mandate came through. Prior to the order, the store only recommended masks.
“It was inconsistent to say the least,” he said. “Now, everybody’s towing the line.”
Blondin said they’ve been able to avoid any negative consequences by supplying free masks for people when they enter the shop.
He said businesses have to use ‘modest and deliberate” marketing strategies to prevent large gatherings of customers in their stores.
“We don’t want to encourage behaviour that poses risks,” Blondin said. “In previous times, [things] that may have been good for business are a dangerous risk to take.”