PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As calls for an indoor mask mandate grow amid rising hospitalizations due to COVID-19, small business owners in Rhode Island are pushing back against reinstating the requirement.
During a media briefing Thursday, Gov. Dan McKee pushed testing, vaccinations and booster shots but stopped short of implementing another mask mandate.
“Everything’s on the table, whether it’s masking or whatever it is,” McKee said. “Right now, we’re not ready to do that.”
Hugo Adames, who owns The Talent Factory, said talks of another indoor mask mandate are concerning.
“It’s gonna decrease consumer confidence and that’s something we’ve been working on for a while,” Adames said. “Once the governor, or any kind of administration, makes it mandatory, it makes people feel unsafe. It makes people feel like, ‘I shouldn’t be going out.'”
Michael Strout, co-owner of GottaQ restaurant, agreed with Adames.
“They’re not going to go out,” Strout said of consumers. “People are going to stay home. We’ve already just barely made it through COVID.
“If we get hit [with another mask mandate] right now, it could very easily put us out of business,” he continued.
But many healthcare leaders argue a mask mandate is what’s needed to stop the spread.
Multiple health care leaders at Lifespan announced Thursday they’d back an indoor mask mandate if one is reinstated.
“Mask-wearing and source control is the primary intervention that you can really do to try to mitigate the spread,” Dean Roye, senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Rhode Island Hospital said. “You are somewhat obligated to try and do everything we can to try and turn the curve and flatten the curve of the transmission.”
Still, opponents believe mask requirements should be left in the hands of business owners, and not mandated by state leaders.
“I actually agree with most of what the governor is emphasizing,” Michael Keifer, owner of Keifer’s Martial Arts said. “Yes get vaccinated, yes get a booster, yes stay home if sick, yes work on treating those who get sick, but no to mandates.”
“I remember when the governor was lieutenant governor and he said he would let businesses make their own decisions … if it’s going to affect our bottom line,” Adames added. “We should be the ones in charge of what we do.”