Nevada business owners struggle with mask mandate

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Last week, Nevada issued a Declaration of Emergency, an indoor mask mandate for all counties with substantial or high COVID transmission, regardless of vaccine status, and many businesses in Douglas and Washoe counties are facing the backlash from unhappy customers.

“I’ve had four who decided to walk out or were mad about that [because they felt] they didn’t have to wear a mask,” said Thania Medina, owner of Thania’s Juice Bar in Incline Village. “They’re very upset.”

Medina said that one of her biggest fears at the latest mask mandate is finding the balance between enforcing the rules set by the state while also making sure to keep as many customers as she can coming back. But her biggest issue lies with those who don’t want to listen to her when she asks them to wear a mask. She’s even had one customer refuse to leave until they were served.

“What can I do?” said Medina. “I just take care of them as fast as I can so they can go away. It’s frustrating because I don’t want to be telling them, ‘Hey, you don’t want to wear a mask? Give me $10,000.’ It’s not my job to tell them what to do, but you have to enforce it because if not, we get fined.”

The mandate requires that the twelve counties considered to be at high risk right now, including Washoe and Douglas, wear masks in all indoor public places until the spread has slowed. The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services will be providing updates every Tuesday to counties and the public informing them of their status and any changes to the mandate.

The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released their latest regulations and requirements for businesses outside of the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard which was put into effect in July. These requirements are to be followed by businesses like Thania’s Juice Bar and all other businesses in counties under the mask mandate, and include requiring all employees and customers to wear face masks while indoors, along with posting signage with the latest CDC mask guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and customers.

For those who are reported or caught not following the mandate, there is a fine, which varies depending on the size of business, along with other factors in the incident. Medina said that if she were to be fined any amount of money by OSHA, it would more than likely shut her business down.

“I care about my business and what I do,” said Medina. “I really can’t afford a fine. I just wish people were more mindful of the consequences of them not wanting to wear a mask for the businesses.”

Carson City Health and Human Services is encouraging businesses that are struggling with customers who refuse to mask up to remind them of the circumstances for everyone.

“We’re encouraging them to enforce the mask wearing by posting signage, and if they see someone entering their store or business without one, they can kindly ask them to wear a mask,” said Public Information Officer of CCHHS Jessica Rapp said. “And then they can explain the importance of wearing a mask and how, if they are able to comply with wearing the masks, it helps the businesses stay open.”

Rapp also encouraged those who have not been vaccinated to go and get vaccinated if they are able to.

“Right now we do have he Pfizer vaccine, which has received authorization for those ages 12 or older,” Rapp said. “So we’re encouraging our community members to get vaccinated because that is still a very important tool in slowing down the spread of the Delta variant.”

Douglas County reported 21,211 people as fully vaccinated, with 23,73 having received at least their first dose as of August 4. The same day, Washoe County reported that 241,906 people were fully vaccinated, with 272,401 people with at least their first dose.

The latest directive comes as Washoe County reported 182 new COVID cases on Wednesday, and Douglas County reported 25 new cases on Tuesday.

While Nevada business owners deal with the mask mandate, across the state line in El Dorado County, officials have issued very little guidance, other than to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Many establishments in California may begin to require verification of vaccination before entering without a mask. That said, all employers can still require employees and patrons to wear masks, even if they are vaccinated as enforced by California’s COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards.

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