California reopening: Workers prefer you keep your mask on - Los Angeles Times
Jun 16, 2021 5 mins, 6 secs
Front-line workers have gone through the wringer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their customer-facing jobs meant they could not escape potential exposure to the coronavirus, and the burden of enforcing safety rules largely fell on them.

Now we’re in another time of transition: California has eased its pandemic safety rules, and at stores, restaurants and other venues, a lot of customers feel things should be back to normal.

The Times talked to front-line workers and operators of customer-facing businesses.

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, continuing to cover your face can put others at ease.

“If you’re not eating, if you’re just hanging out and chatting with somebody, it would be nice to have people put their masks back on,” said Ricky Hernandez, owner of Coffee Coffee, which has locations on Melrose Avenue and Fairfax Avenue.

If you’re not fully vaccinated, continuing to wear a mask is even more important.

Rosalina Duran, a housekeeper at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Ontario Airport, said she’s nervous about the easing of the pandemic protocols and fears that people who have not been vaccinated won’t continue to cover their faces?

“It’s going to be difficult with the rules going away because we don’t know who is coming and who is going,” she said in Spanish.

Some businesses have pandemic precautions that are more stringent than the government requires.

Tohm Ifergan, 31, owner of Dayglow, said his coffee shops in Silver Lake and West Hollywood will continue to require customers to wear masks when they enter, order and are not seated.

In recent months, “we’ve witnessed many people enter unmasked, screaming at our faces, spitting at us, throwing chairs, blasting us on social media, calling us ‘libtard’ and ‘unpatriotic,’” said Ifergan, who also works as a barista at the shops.

Pent-up demand, pandemic savings, back-to-office mandates -- experts say it will all add up to a historic wave of people leaving their jobs.

Before Tuesday, “it was nice to fall back on the health department’s mandate” in enforcing the rules, he said.

Phil, a safety compliance worker at an entertainment company, said he wished customers would understand that safety protocols at a place of business come from the company, not from rank-and-file workers.

“It’s not up to us,” said Phil, who asked to be identified by only his first name because he feared repercussions from his employer.

“Even though we’re enforcing the rules, we don’t make the rules.”?

Pamela Hill, a cashier at an Albertsons supermarket in South Los Angeles, said she tries to limit her contact with customers because she wants to minimize her chances of catching the coronavirus and bringing it home to infect her family.

“I try to restrain from any type of conversation with [customers] because we know that the [virus] is airborne.

Although new infections have dropped in California, the pandemic isn’t over.

And at the store, “we’re still in a confined space,” Hill said.

Kathryn Lundeen, owner of Culver City gift shop Lundeen’s, she said she wishes customers would be willing to tell her and her employees if they are vaccinated.

“It would make everyone more comfortable,” she said.

“I have to trust that people are going to wear their mask if they’re not vaccinated, but I don’t know if that’s really going to happen.”.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or their only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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“I’ve been cussed out and spat on for asking customers to wear masks, so it’s a relief to not police them anymore.

As a result of the anxiety and frustrations brought on by dealing with angry customers, he’s looking into job opportunities that would let him work remotely.

“The desperation level for me to get out of my job now has amplified to where I submit an application multiple times a day,” he said.

Darcey May, the general manager of Things From Another World, a comic store at Universal CityWalk, said that after seeing so many customers aggressively flout pandemic rules in recent weeks, it might be hard now for her to trust that barefaced customers are fully vaccinated.

What would May like to see from customers.

With California’s economy reopening, rent in Los Angeles and other big cities is beginning to rise.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times

He joins The Times over the summer as a Business reporting intern through his school’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, working from Los Angeles

Andrea Chang is a reporter at the Los Angeles Times

Hugo Martín covers the travel industries, including airlines and theme parks, for the Los Angeles Times Business section

Jack Flemming covers luxury real estate for the Los Angeles Times

Before joining The Times as an intern in 2017, he wrote for the Columbia Missourian and Politico Europe

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