When the Painted Ladies strolled into Joyfully Said in Middlebury on Tuesday, they had on their face masks and new blue “Painted Ladies” T-shirts, ready to explore the custom sign and home décor shop.
Owner Wes Gorsuch welcomed the group of 11 ladies from Port Huron, Michigan, and let them know about Elkhart County’s new face mask mandate, which went into effect that morning.
There were no worries for the members of the 25-year-old group.
Pam Anecki said that in her area of Michigan, they have a choice if they wear one in most places. She doesn’t wear them unless she has to, but she had hers on for her group’s shopping trip, as did all of the other ladies.
Gorsuch said if any customers forget their masks, he will give them one if they want. If they do not want to wear a mask, he asks that they make sure to observe social distancing of six feet, which is not hard to do in the roomy building.
“I think so far, so good,” he said. “Our stance is to comply with the county as much as we can.”
Gorsuch is a nurse and has been one for 13 years. Although he is working at Joyfully Said full-time these days, he knows that if the hospitals are begging for a mask ordinance then the situation is serious. “I know and trust them,” he said.
He’s hoping there won’t be more divisiveness over this. There are already two camps: herd immunity and wear masks.
“We will see what happens,” he said. The best thing people can do is wash their hands. But if masks inspire confidence in his customers, he’s for it.
His grandfather and his grandfather’s wife both had COVID-19 and they are in their mid- to late-80s, Gorsuch said. Both have recovered. So he’s well aware of the seriousness.
But even with a mandatory mask order, if a customer does not want to wear a mask, he will not ask them to leave. “We believe in personal liberties,” he said. “That would be a sad day to force a customer to leave.” The store has plenty of room for people to distance themselves from each other, he pointed out.
At Tony’s Famous Grill in downtown Goshen, server Kloie Hewitt, Goshen, said that most people were aware of the new order. “We’ve had a few tables come in, asking what our rules are,” she said. “I feel like most people come in with masks but they take them off to eat. So, most people are complying, but not a lot of people want to wear masks.
“A lot of customers have come up to us and told us that they would even rather us not wear masks,” she said.
At Trinity Square Shopping Plaza at Chicago and Pike streets in Goshen, response to the mask mandate was varied.
Shontera Wilson, Goshen, who has second-stage COPD, said wearing a mask makes it hard for her to breathe. “So it makes for a bad day, especially in the humidity,” she said. Wilson prefers not going anywhere if possible for risk of her own health and others.
Monika Southern, Goshen, was shopping with Monaye Southern and 8-year-old RJ Williams.
“I think it should be a choice,” Monika said. If a store mandates their employees wear a mask, then that’s fine. But with patrons it should be optional, she said.
They had to wear a mask in order to eat at a buffet that day, she explained. Although the trio didn’t like it, they complied. “The numbers are going to rise anyway,” Monika said, until people’s immune systems are up.
Monaye said, “I just know it’s really hard to breathe in them.”
Monika added, “I feel like they’re more unhealthy for you.” She cited a statement from the CDC that said people should not wear masks unless they have symptoms or work in health care “because they are unhealthy for anyone other than those people — and that’s why I won’t wear one.”
Monika also does not want her son wearing one for long periods of time.
She went to a parent orientation at the Boys & Girls Club and learned the children would be required to wear masks for most of the day. Because of that, she has not taken RJ to the club.
RJ said he did not want to wear one either. “They’re not that fine,” he said.
On the other side of the coin is Brian Amundson, of Goshen. “I think it’s good. I think it makes us more aware to be careful and we need that awareness,” he said.
Amundson wears a mask all day working at Goshen Middle School and admits it’s hard to breathe in. He wants to check into purchasing a face shield.
Also supporting the mandate was Connor Ellis of Goshen. “I think it’s good, honestly,” he said. He used to think that people were overblowing it, but then he saw that 500,000 people had died of it worldwide and “the numbers are rising every day. … It’s definitely a population killer.”
Ellis, who wears a mask when out, said he doesn’t think people are taking the mask order seriously.
Chris Murray, South Bend, was browsing the aisles of Goshen Antique Mall Tuesday. “I think it’s a good idea when it’s necessary,” he said. “If you’re going to be around other people, I understand.”
He said there are a lot of people wanting to make an issue over wearing a mask just to make an issue. For him, he doesn’t mind wearing the mask.
Abraham Medellin, Goshen, was shopping at T.G. Music and said he favors the mask order.
It’s like “No shirt, no shoes, no service” at this point, he said. “I mean, if this is the requirement for basic living, then we’ll need people to be on the same board.”
Before “No shirt no shoes no service,” he said, people probably walked into places barefoot and it wasn’t very healthy if someone would bust their foot on a rusty nail and get injured or infected.
Now, there are modern treatments for illnesses, including tetanus, and people got over those types of humps.
“This is a brand new hump that no one knows,” Medellin said. “It’s just like, OK, it’s simple, just put a mask on when you’re in public. Anything else, that’s your home… . But here though, like in public, for us to even survive in society, these are just the basic requirements.”
Andrea Norgard, Syracuse, who was walking along Main Street in Goshen with a group of ladies said, “Personally, I’m in favor of it, especially if it allows businesses to remain open and makes the owners and workers in the businesses feel safe.”