COVID-19 cases are up in Long Beach—rising 60% in the span of a week—and some business owners are now confronting a question: What’s the best way to keep their staff safe and healthy?
Since Long Beach ended its mask mandate last year, it’s been up to individual businesses when and if to deploy masks or other safety precautions. But, according to representatives of multiple Business Improvement Districts, local businesses aren’t keen on bringing masks back.
To Thai District co-owner, André Anglès, requiring masks without a city or state mandate may not be worth the controversy.
“You can’t really force guests to put them on unless it’s mandated by the city or the state,” said Anglès.
Although masks could be recommended to guests, Anglès questioned how beneficial mask-wearing would be in a restaurant, considering customers would only wear them while walking from the entrance to their table.
“It’s very touchy,” he said. “But I mean, I wouldn’t have a problem putting it on my staff. We did, and we were fine.”
Anglès said he will be looking out for guidance from the city, but instating masking or other COVID-19 procedures likely won’t be something he’d initiate on his own.
“We try not to upset too many people along the way,” said Anglès. “You make a decision like this and all of a sudden oh, ‘We have to wear a mask? We’re not going,’ and then you get a bad review.”
For Ceasar McDowell, co-owner of the restaurant, McDowell’s Soul Food & BBQ, the nonprofit Unite the People and the facial spa Amber M Aesthetics, the concern level is higher.
“If COVID hits real bad … and has it where your staff is sick and can’t come back into work, or we get sick and can’t run the businesses—it can hurt us real bad,” McDowell said. “We’ve super been monitoring the new uprise in the COVID cases.”
Over the past week, McDowell has been wearing a mask to work, along with some of his staff, but he has not yet decided to require masking.
City officials have said a mask mandate likely isn’t on the horizon, so McDowell said he has been monitoring the news and checking in with local hospitals on his own to assess the situation.
Requiring masks without a city or state mandate may affect his staff’s morale, McDowell said, but safety is more important.
“You don’t want any of your staff dying,” McDowell said. “So whether they like it or not, you have to make that decision.”