Virginia

Northern Virginia Business Owners Express Concern About Enforcing Mask Mandate

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Starting on Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will require everyone over the age of ten wear a mask when entering a business or on public transportation.

Northam's office says the mask mandate will not be enforced by police but rather the health department.

"If a manager of a restaurant is not adopting this policy, VDH can certainly talk to them and give them a warning," Northam's Chief of Staff Clark Mercer said.

Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol says she's heard concerns from businesses owners about enforcing the mask policy.

"We've definitely heard from some grocers and some others that they don't want to be in the business of enforcing and I think you've seen, nationally, examples of altercations between grocery employees and individuals who don't want to wear masks and get belligerent about it," Cristol said.

Cristol says Arlington County ordered masks to help people who don't have one.

"What we would rather be doing when it comes to enforcement, is handing someone a mask rather than handing them a ticket," she said.

This week, Arlington restaurants can apply for permits to expand their outdoor seating to allow for more business this weekend.

Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors will vote on a similar plan Thursday. Meanwhile, Fair Oaks Mall is preparing for reopening Friday with staff hanging mask requirement signs in the windows, urging people to comply.

"We're not going to be asking people to leave or anything like that because there could be reasons why people aren't wearing a mask as well," said Robbie Stark, with Fair Oaks Mall.

Stores in the mall can allow 50 percent capacity at one time.

Nora Battey runs Zoe Salaon in Fair Oaks and expects a strong first weekend back.

"Opening the phone lines and taking appointments and it has been nonstop," Battey said.

Which is why Virginia Republicans take issue with the governor's mask mandate, saying businesses have too much to worry about already - without having to police their patrons.

"You're gonna have 18-year-old kids at the check-out counter, being asked to enforce an executive order of the governor and we just think that's undue added stress on businesses that are already
stressed out by the situation," Virginia Del. Todd Gilbert said.

Still, Northam says that wearing masks now will get businesses into Phase 2 of reopening more quickly.

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