Speaking Up About Pandemic Mask Rules

Sheri Denkensohn-TrottQ. I’m having an issue with people not wearing masks. I’m a paraplegic, and I live in an urban community. I’d like to go out to my favorite local coffee shop and show my support while we’re all dealing with COVID-19, but some customers there don’t wear masks. I always wear one and, because of lung complications from when I was first injured, I’m mindful of whether others have face coverings. I went to buy coffee the other day and could see through the shop’s windows that the employees behind the coffee bar all had masks. The shop allows only a few customers at a time, to maintain appropriate distancing according to current rules, but some patrons weren’t wearing masks, and I didn’t see a sign requiring face coverings. I wanted to say something to the people without masks but worried they wouldn’t be receptive to my comments or could potentially respond with verbal aggression. Plus, I don’t like confrontation, so I went home without coffee. How can I go out to enjoy my favorite places without endangering my health? How do I help people understand that by not wearing masks, they put me at risk?

A. The decisions you make about what health precautions you should take regarding COVID-19 are very personal, and you should start by consulting your primary care doctor.

When it comes to going out, know the current COVID-19 rules in your area. It’s also a good idea to maintain a calendar of your activities outside of your home to make contact tracing easier if you are exposed to the virus on one of your outings. Requirements regarding masking at retail establishments differ by jurisdiction and are likely to change frequently because of the shifting nature of the COVID-19 situation.  Before engaging in any conversations with other patrons and/or management, be aware of the regulations as well as related exceptions. For example, some jurisdictions have exceptions for individuals with disabilities who cannot put on or take off a mask independent