Aug 08, 2023

Why over 2,000 readers agree with businesses requiring masks

By Laura Emde

The COVID-19 public health emergency in Massachusetts ended May 11, but COVID is still spreading in the Commonwealth. Between July 13 and July 19, the state reported 745 confirmed new COVID cases as well as 340 probable cases.

With this continued spread, many businesses in the Greater Boston area made the decision to continue requiring masks in store. Some of the reasons why these businesses have kept their mask requirements include protecting immunocompromised customers and employees from COVID, as well as to avoid closing due to an employee outbreak.

We asked readers if they agree with some local businesses requiring masks. Of the more than 2,300 readers who responded, 87% agreed with these businesses’ decision.

Protecting immunocompromised and vulnerable populations was one of the main reasons why readers supported businesses requiring masks. Reader Sammie H. from Boston says that wearing masks to stop the spread can show that one cares about others.

“Preventing spread of illness shows that you care about others around you,” she said. “Masking is one small way to do just that. You might even save some lives, like the lives of those who are immunocompromised.”

Many readers also said that masking can also help to prevent complications from COVID, such as long COVID.

“[Long COVID] took out myself, my partner, and many people I know with fatigue, lung issues, cold like symptoms and weird stuff like stomach issues. Masks help limit the spread and save people years of pain for a few minutes of minor discomfort, like a seatbelt,” said reader Berinthia from Somerville.

Readers also said they mask because COVID is still here. Although many consider it endemic, the virus is still spreading. On top of ongoing COVID concerns, there is also the looming threat of another pandemic starting in the United States. A recent report from Harvard Law School and New York University stated that the next zoonotic disease, or one originating from animals, could potentially arise from the U.S. meat supply.

For many readers, such as Richael C. from Clifton, preventative measures need to continue in order to preserve public health.

“Nothing has changed, there is still a virus circulating that has killed millions and is continuing to do so, as well as disabling countless more,” she said. “When we all wear masks, we are all protected. It’s good for business and it’s good for people’s health.”

However, some readers disagreed with businesses requiring masks. Many of those who disagreed said it is their personal choice to wear a mask, not the business’s choice.

“I make my own decisions for my health and safety, based on my own risk factors. And masks are not required by law,” said reader Andrea G. from Stoneham.

Read below to some of the reasons why readers either agree or disagree with businesses requiring masks.

Some responses have been lightly edited for length or clarity.

“I think essential services, especially medical settings, and transportation should still require masks so they are safe for people who can’t avoid them, and I applaud any businesses that choose to require masks — it reduces community spread and helps everybody. Shared spaces should also have air filtration and ventilation. You shouldn’t have to avoid going to the emergency room after a car accident, or to a doctor’s appointment, because you might get a life-changing disease in the waiting room full of unmasked sick people.” — Kathryn, Cambridge

“I work in a store that does not require masks, and (I’ve kept a tally) approximately every third customer that comes in has a nasty, hacking cough and/or is sneezing prolifically. My coworkers who don’t wear masks have had COVID several times, including right after we dropped our mask requirement last year. I’m in several high risk categories for severe COVID complications, and I have no choice but to risk exposure every time I work due to my workplace dropping all COVID mitigations. It would be much more physically safe for me, both as a retail employee and as a customer, if masks were still required in businesses around town. It’s a failure of public health that they are not.” — Heidi S., Moab, Ut.

“COVID disables and kills. I want to stay alive and want others to be alive too.” — Emily, Ispwich

“When they are ‘suggested but not required,’ masking rates are too low for creating safe environments for immunocompromised and high risk people. I support businesses who make the choice to prioritize safety for all, not just comfort of some who don’t care.” — Rebecca, Brighton

“I don’t think it’s fair to immunocompromised folks and the people that love them to shed masks entirely. I appreciate shop owners holding the line to protect themselves and their most vulnerable employees and customers.” — Amanda, Andover

“Because I care about keeping others safe(r) from COVID and other airborne disease. And because ‘high risk’ people (which include people who’ve been infected with COVID once or more) deserve to have access to spaces that are too high risk if everyone is unmasked. And because vaccines do not give us the protection we were once told: they do not stop the transmission of COVID; only masks (plus good air ventilation and filtration) can do that risk mitigation.” — Sarah, Boston

“I am immunocompromised and I deserve access to public spaces. So do immunocompromised minimum wage workers.” — Cory

“Masks work, and COVID is endemic and evolving. At 66, I’m ‘vulnerable’ and have family and friends who are more so. We should follow the science, not the latest fashions of political fanaticism. Wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience; long COVID or death is not. I appreciate businesses that truly care about their customers and employees.” — Dan P., Jamaica Pond

“SARS-CoV-2 leads to long term organ damage through repeat infections. Endothelial damage (to cells lining all blood vessels regulating exchange between blood and surrounding tissue) isn’t something you can feel. But it happens nonetheless. A mask substantially helps reduce that damage by preventing infection to begin with. Masks work when used properly. Wear a mask.” — Giuseppe C., Somerville

“COVID is still around and I know quite a few immunocompromised people. More than that, there are more and more studies coming out on the effects that COVID infections can have on long-term health (Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.). I think there is a good chance that in 10-20 years we are going to see a huge uptick in very serious diseases that will be able to be traced back to recurrent COVID infections.” — Cynthia, Lowell

“Many people do not know that Covid-19 is considered a level 3 biohazard pathogen. Transmission is airborne and that even asymptomatic or mild cases may result in damage to blood vessels, organs and cause autoimmune system problems down the line. Masks along with good ventilation and vaccinations are the best ways to protect ourselves against infection.” — Pamela M., Beverly

“COVID still exists, it’s airborne, millions of people have died from it, and tens of millions more people will have permanent disabilities from infection. Requiring masks is the least a business can do to protect its employees and patrons.” — Chris

“COVID is not over. Allow staff to protect themselves if they want to. Businesses need to keep their staff healthy and fit — and paying customers alive to keep spending too!” — Fiona L.

“COVID-19 is still very much with us — killing and disabling a mass amount of people every day. Masks are an effective way to protect yourself and others, especially the most vulnerable. I want those that I know and love, and even those that I don’t, to live a long, long time. That will not be possible when people are reinfected over and over again and it doesn’t have to be that way.” — Emme

“COVID is not over and it’s up to all of us to make an impact. Business owners who require masks are doing community service by keeping themselves safe (thus able to stay healthy enough to continue operations) and our communities safer by reducing viral spread.” — Miranda, Boston

“I think it should be a personal decision.” — Will C., Everett

“It’s up to everyone to decide what’s best for themselves. If you’re concerned about catching COVID, then you wear a mask. It’s unreasonable to expect others to wear a mask if they don’t want to.” — Darcy, Littleton

“At some point it has to end. We are all vaccinated and boosted if we choose to be. If someone is immunocompromised and needs to wear a mask, then by all means have them wear one and give them a space to work that is a bit away from others and well ventilated. If a local business had such rules I probably wouldn’t be a repeat customer unless they offered something I couldn’t find elsewhere.” — JD, Belmont

“Masks should be optional, if customers and employees want to wear them, they should be allowed to, but they should not be forced to wear them.” — Charles L., Newburyport

“I make my own decisions for my health and safety, based on my own risk factors. And masks are not required by law.” — Andrea G., Stoneham

“I don’t agree with it but it is their choice and would honor the request if I wanted something from that particular vendor.” — Tom M., Framingham

“I have no problem if a person chooses to wear a mask, however, it’s too far to ask customers to wear them given the current transmission rates. And this is coming from someone who was very late to ditch the KN95!” — Cody, Chelsea occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.

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Protecting immunocompromised and vulnerable peopleMasks are better than long COVID and its complicationsCOVID isn’t over