Talk To Us: COVID Questions

May 27, 2021

BPR is answering listener queries about the Coronavirus in a new segment –Talk to Us: COVID Questions.  BPR’s Helen Chickering brings us this week’s answer.  This week's COVID question comes from Charlene Reeves of Asheville.

"I run  a personal training studio in Asheville and  I'm just wondering, what are the recommendations for health clubs or personal training studios or for any business regarding the release of mask wearing and social distancing? How do you enforce mask wearing without discriminating against those who don't want to get a vaccine?

Good Question.  North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services  recently issued business specific recommendations  (following the lifting of masks for the vaccinated and other pandemic restrictions) for  social distancing and masks,  but didn't have  much guidance on how to handle the tricky 'mask or not to mask'  situation.     For insight,  we tapped into Jill Sparks, Executive Director of the Small Business Center and Business Incubation Program at AB Tech. She encourages businesses to choose a policy and stick with it.

“Stick to the policy, whatever it is,” says Sparks. “And be consistent in the messaging to employees, as well as the customers and letting them know ahead of time. This is what's going on.”                                   

Communicating the message “Whether it's a newsletter, I've gotten several newsletters already. I've seen signs in stores that say -  we're proud to protect our employees. We are protecting our employees and we ask that everyone wear a mask. This is what our policy is. We're sticking with this." 

Jill Sparks, Executive Director of the Small Business Center and Business Incubation Program at AB Tech
Credit Jill Sparks

Consider options  “Also, possibly setting up special times for shopping or working out. If a small business decides to go maskless,  then talking with their customers, ‘Hey, we're going to set aside this time for special shopping, or we’re going to open up the gym at a special time -  for folks that for whatever reason, want to come in with a mask.”

“Again, the business owners, having to bear all that responsibility of trying to interpret it's, it's just very overwhelming.”

Social distancing  “Another thing, keeping social distancing top of mind, we still can’t be all on top of each other” says Sparks. “Again, that's really hard to enforce  - so being consistent and having something                                                                                                      written out that employees know,  here's the policy                                                                                                       at the front door.”

Masks – no big deal “If we can get away from the vaccinated non-vaccinated issue and make it very acceptable to, ‘Hey, I'm wearing a mask because I don't feel like smiling today’  - if we can move to that point, that's going to be helpful for everyone,” says Sparks.

The bottom line  “Our business owners will not make every person happy. You know, there's going to be someone that's going be upset about it -  and being consistent and very communicative are two of the strongest lines of defense on that.”

Do you have a COVID question? record a voice memo and send it to voices@bpr.org.  

I'm Helen Chickering BPR news.