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Letting the mask of responsibility slip

<p>Essential workers in Oxford are nervous to confront non-mask wearers in fear of retalliation. </p>

Essential workers in Oxford are nervous to confront non-mask wearers in fear of retalliation.

Despite City Council's face covering ordinance and Miami University President Greg Crawford's presidential request, Oxford businesses are still reporting problems with customers not covering their faces indoors. 

Darian Bertrand, a front-end cashier at Walmart, said fewer and fewer people are wearing face coverings in the store. He estimated that roughly 25% of customers are refusing to cover their mouth and nose and that the percentage has been increasing. 

“I feel like people are just getting tired and don’t want to follow the rules,” Bertrand said. “The majority who were wearing masks are seeing the few who don’t wear masks and think it’s OK.” 

Bertrand cited the confusing company policy on face coverings as being part of the problem. Posted signage says masks are required, and greeters offer masks to any patron not already wearing one. However, customers are not ejected or reprimanded for not wearing a mask. 

After seeing videos of altercations as a result of workers asking customers to put on a mask, Bertrand said he was uncomfortable telling customers to cover their mouth and nose. 

“It’s like they don’t care about how we — about how anyone around them — feels,” Bertrand said. “I’ve seen people online just beat the shit out of people for asking them to wear a mask. It’s ridiculous. I’m paid $11 an hour not to get harassed and assaulted in Walmart.” 

Caitlyn Smith, a sales associate at CVS, also said she felt uncomfortable telling customers to put on a mask. Although she reported only 10% of customers (roughly one an hour) not wearing masks, she still said she considered it to be an issue.

“I personally don’t say anything because it’s confrontational,” Smith said. “I don’t want to get yelled at. I have been yelled at before when I tried.”

Both Smith and Kaitlyn Welch, a cashier at ACE Hardware, said the people not wearing masks tend to be older. 

“Usually they’re older, because then they say that they have a health condition, which you can’t really argue with them about,” Welch said. 

However, not all retail establishments are finding customers to be noncompliant. Madison Wilson, who works at MacCracken Market and King Cafe on Miami’s campus, said almost every customer is wearing a face covering. 

“As of recently, I haven’t really encountered anyone who wasn’t wearing a mask when I was checking them out or getting their food ready,” Wilson said. 

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Wilson explained that the university’s policies are very clear. 

“We are told that, if someone does come up to the register without a mask, we are allowed to turn them away,” Wilson said. 

If a student wasn’t wearing a mask, Wilson said she would feel comfortable turning them away from the register. 

“I feel like the students here are very understanding,” Wilson said. “For the most part, people are pretty compliant.”

Despite the easy enforcement on campus, the problem proliferates in the rest of Oxford. 

As fewer people comply with the mask covering ordinance in retail establishments, workers continue to feel mistreated. Without increased enforcement, Bertrand doesn’t see a resolution to the problem. 

“I feel powerless,” Bertand said. “It’s like they don’t care.” 

coxaj4@miamioh.edu 



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