Some Bloomington businesses are struggling to enforce the Monroe County mask mandate as customers feel they no longer need to comply after the end of Indiana’s statewide mandate.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced March 23 the state mask mandate would be lifted April 6. Local governments can continue their mask mandates and private businesses can also still require customers to wear them, according to Holcomb’s executive order.
Bloomington businesses have reported an increase in mask-related disputes with customers since the state mandate was lifted.
Max Sandefer, an IU senior and Kroger employee, said he noticed an increase of customers without masks after Indiana’s mask mandate ended.
“I feel people are way more emboldened now to come in without a mask,” Sandefer said. “A lot of people, in general, are just casually going about without masks in the store. It's just really frustrating.”
Sandefer said enforcing mask-wearing in the store is harder without the state mask mandate. He said Kroger’s protocol is sometimes inefficient when dealing with non-complying customers. When a customer is in the store without a mask, Sandefer said employees must first alert a manager who then approaches the customer. By the time the manager steps in, the customer may become hard to track down, Sandefer said.
Meghan Looney, an IU junior and Bloomingfoods cashier, said customers were mostly compliant with the mask mandate before April 6, and conflicts were at a minimum. However, she said she has noticed more mask-related conflicts arise in the store following the end of the state mask mandate.
“In the beginning, we really didn't have that many people trying to come in the store without masks or really like yelling at us if we told them to put on masks,” Looney said.
Looney said there was an incident with a customer not wearing a mask five days prior to the state mandate ending. She said the customer was told to put on a mask and responded by referencing the upcoming end of the state mandate as a reason to not wear one.
“We told her to put one and she said something along the lines of ‘This will all be over in a week,’ which is just not true,” Looney said.
Bloomingfoods is strict about enforcing masks-wearing in the store, Looney said, and most of the customers who enter without masks simply forgot to put one on or use the free masks offered to customers in need of one.
Looney said she believes grocery stores have a harder time enforcing masks than other businesses because visibility of the customers is more limited.
“It’s harder to see when people are wearing it incorrectly because they're walking within the isles,” Looney said. “At a restaurant, since it's obvious when people are standing up, it's easier to monitor, but I would say they have it pretty difficult as well.”
Sydney Stippler, an IU senior and barista at Soma Coffeehouse and Juice Bar, said she has not noticed more issues with customers failing to comply with Monroe County’s mask regulations after the state mandate ended. On occasions when customers entered the shop without a mask, she said they responded cooperatively when reminded to wear one.
“I didn’t really have any issues personally,” Stippler said. “I know some people did run into a few instances where things were uncomfortable with the customers, but I don’t think that happened very often.”
Editor’s Note: Max Sandefer was previously an opinion writer for the IDS.