August 18, 2021
By Nick Neville
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – The Department for Health and Environmental Control released data Wednesday that showed one in five people tested for COVID-19 in the last week were positive.
Due to data like this and the transmissibility of the delta variant, a number of local businesses – and national chains – are taking steps they say are in line with keeping their staff and customers safe.
Some customers, like Mario Barrera, are pleased that some businesses are requiring masks and taking additional precautions.
One such business is the Dunkin’ on Broad River Road in Columbia. Not only are they requiring that customers and employees alike wear masks, but they also recently brought back plexiglass barriers at the cash register that they had taken down months ago.
“We just want to keep everyone safe,” Lafayette Fletcher, an employee, said. “And we’re not trying to have any hiccups or any mishaps so we just did that to prevent the customers from catching anything, and ourselves.”
When asked whether he believes more businesses should take these steps, Barrera said it’s up to each individual business, but added, “I wish they did.”
Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the 5000-plus member South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, agrees.
“Business can be transacted if everybody’s wearing a mask. It doesn’t slow anything down. So not to take that minimal precaution is foolhardy.”
Some of the country’s biggest chains are taking similar steps. Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Target re-imposed mask mandates. The nation’s biggest retailer ended its mask requirement for customers in May, and continues to encourage, but not mandate, shoppers to mask up.
After dropping its employee mask mandate last May, Publix brought it back in the last few weeks. While the supermarket chain does not require masks for customers, the latest Covid guidance on its website states “we encourage all to do their part to slow the spread of covid-19.”
Knapp said in order to avoid store closures and keep the economy running, these mitigation strategies are necessary while case numbers remain high.
He said they could be in place for the long-term unless vaccination rates increase.
“If we can’t get more people vaccinated, this is what we’re looking at in the future, trying to mitigate the problem by requiring masks when people are in public and in private businesses,” Knapp said.