After termination of county mandate, businesses use encouragement, rather than a requirement, to get customers to mask up |

After termination of county mandate, businesses use encouragement, rather than a requirement, to get customers to mask up

Some establishments wary of arguments with patrons

Pamela Manson
For The Park Record
A sign on Main Street last year encouraging mask-wearing.
Park Record file photo

After the Utah Legislature last month terminated Summit County’s public mask mandate, it is once again up to private businesses to decide whether to require customers to mask up in their establishments.

At We Norwegians and other shops in the Park City area, the decision not to force customers to wear masks is one of practicality.

“We find that that is a little too much to put on our staff,” said Ailin Harklau, one of the managers of the Main Street clothing retailer, of trying to enforce a mask-wearing rule. “What we do is strongly encourage it.”

Employees at the store wear masks and they “keep a little bit more of a distance” from customers without masks if that makes them feel more comfortable, she said. Shoppers who ask for a mask are provided with one.

“We wish there was still an actual mandate from the Health Department,” she said.

Managers at several other shops in the Park City area are taking a similar approach and urging customers to wear masks rather than mandating it.

Lawmakers passed a resolution on Jan. 21 to immediately end mask mandates that had been put in place in Summit and Salt Lake counties through public health orders.

Summit County enacted a mask mandate on Jan. 7 in response to the record-breaking transmission of the COVID-19 omicron variant. After the Legislature’s vote, Phil Bondurant, the county’s health director, said in a prepared statement to The Park Record that the best practices continue to be staying home if sick, getting the vaccine and a booster shot, and wearing a mask in public indoor spaces.

Ginger Wicks, the executive director of the Historic Park City Alliance, said she hasn’t heard if any businesses are requiring masks for guests, but some mandate them for employees.

From what she’s seeing, about half of guests are wearing masks, Wicks said in an email.

Harklau has the same observation, saying said about half the customers at We Norwegians wear a face covering.

At Dolly’s Bookstore on Main Street, manager Michaela Smith said all employees and about 75% of the shoppers wear a mask at the business. She said not requiring face coverings allows employees to avoid fights with customers.

With the mandate gone, Mary Jane’s, a Main Street boutique, now has a sign that says “Face Masks Appreciated,” rather than required.

About half of the customers wear masks, which are offered at the door, according to manager Maggie Heck.

Another boutique, Indigo Highway, asks people who are unvaccinated to wear masks as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All employees at the Newpark shop are fully vaccinated, according to its website.

“We don’t require it but a lot of our customers do wear masks,” manager Rachel Abbott said. “We do keep a supply of masks handy for anyone who wants them.”

She said there was no resistance from shoppers to wearing a mask when the county mandate was in force.

“Everyone was really cooperative,” Abbott said. “I think we were really lucky here. We didn’t have any pushback on it whatsoever.”

The termination of Summit County’s mask mandate has not affected COVID-19 protocols at ski resorts.

Face coverings are required in indoor settings at Park City Mountain Resort, including in gondolas, restaurants, lodging properties, restroom and retail locations, and on buses. The rules apply to everyone, including guests and employees.

“We required the use of face coverings in indoor settings at the resort as part of our 2021-22 winter season safety protocols,” said Jessica Miller, a spokesperson for PCMR, in a statement. “This requirement was in place prior to Summit County’s mandate. The majority of our guests have been, and continue to be, supportive and cooperative. We appreciate everyone’s efforts to help us stay safe together this season.”

A similar policy is in place at Deer Valley Resort.

“Deer Valley continues to have the same indoor mask requirement in place that we implemented in August 2021 again for both guests and staff,” said Emily Summers, senior communications manager, in an email. “It is well-received for the most part, as our guests understand we have to do everything we can to stay open and offer a full ski season.”

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