The Chicago Department of Health recently adopted the current assessments from the CDC, saying that fully vaccinated people should be allowed to go without a face mask in retail shops and hair salons, among other businesses. Some business owners quickly moved to drop their mask policies, particularly in the more upscale downtown shopping areas and the Miracle Mile. (Parts of which are somehow back up and operating after being repeatedly burned and looted during the riots.) But as CBS Chicago discovered this week, other parts of the city are not moving as quickly to return to normalcy. This is particularly true on the South Side. Reporters spoke with some shop owners in the South Shore district and found that many of them simply don’t think it’s safe to serve the maskless yet.
Right now, the Perfect Pieces boutique in South Shore is open for business, but not really open to the idea of fully vaccinated shoppers going maskless just yet.
“The fact that it’s so small and so personal, I just don’t want to take the chance,” said Kamara Reeves, boutique owner of Perfect Pieces.
Things are not as strict at the nearby Prana for Hair beauty salon. “One on one, I’m not going to be the mask police,” said Oluchi Zelda Opara, owner of Prana for Hair.
But the mask-up rule is still in place, specifically when people fill the waiting area.
The CBS report is sort of tiptoeing around the demographics involved here, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines. The South Side has a significantly larger minority population than downtown and vaccine hesitancy among Black residents is still a major issue. These are also lower-income neighborhoods, so some residents may be having a hard time even getting to a pod to get vaccinated if they want to. In South Shore, only 23% of eligible people are fully vaccinated. That’s less than half of the roughly 50% rates being seen in the Loop and Lincoln Park. Your odds of having an infected person walking around maskless go up considerably on the South Side and the business owners are clearly aware of that fact and responding accordingly.
No matter which way any individual business owner decides to go, I don’t have a problem with it. The mask question is finally being addressed correctly in Windy City. While late to the party, Chicago is getting closer to the state of affairs in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis recently ended all COVID emergency restrictions, including mask mandates, forbidding local governments from enacting their own. While many of us cheered that move, he did not forbid individual businesses from continuing to require face masks before entering.
The same situation is rolling out in Chicago without the need for additional executive orders. Let each owner evaluate the conditions in their neighborhoods and decide for themselves. Likewise, consumers will be able to pick and choose, voting with their wallets and their feet. Those who remain worried about contracting the virus can patronize the shops with a mask requirement. Those who have had enough and want to return to normalcy can frequent the business without mask rules.
We’re seeing a microcosm of small-government conservatism in action. And the more we learn about how many aspects of this pandemic response were mishandled by governments at all levels, we should probably be wondering why more places didn’t do this much sooner.
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