Restaurants respond to mask mandate; survey finds seniors agree

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Governor Andy Beshear’s mandate requiring Kentuckians to wear masks in public continues to draw a variety of responses across the state.

One group that will be particularly impacted is restaurants, which not only must have staff wear them but also try to make sure customers do as well.

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And that comes as a new survey by a senior citizens group suggests a majority of seniors not only don’t mind wearing masks but also think it should be required.

For many communities restaurants play a major role in the economy.

“We’re the handshake of Lexington. Welcome in, come on in, let me pour you a bourbon,” says Ouita Michel, owner of Outia Michel Family of Restaurants.

She believes Beshear’s mask mandate, which has the support of the Kentucky Retail Federation and National Retail Federation, is actually really helpful.

“There have been a few people at our restaurants that have had a problem with the mask and that’s their prerogative, but they can’t come into any of my restaurants. That’s my prerogative. I’m so relieved, because now I feel like Governor Beshear has taken that out of my hands and just said hey it’s mandatory,” Michel says.

She says a mandate like this could actually be key to economy getting back up to speed in her eyes.

“Our revenue right now is about 50 percent of where it was this time last year. But, we’re making enough in sales to keep going. In order for our economy to reopen we have to be able to navigate this transition back to normalcy and so it’s just vital that we do this,” Michel explained.

She’s not alone. Zach Joseph is the director of administration for A Cup of Common Wealth. He says like many establishments, they already had a mask policy. For him, Beshear’s mandate only bolsters that.

“For us, we didn’t have any issues with anything being added on from that rule. If anything, I think it will normalize it a little more and make it easier on our end because people will already know if I’m going into a business I have to have my mask,” Joseph says.

Ultimately it comes down to the safety of not only customers but staff as well.

“Based on what we understand of the science is really the person wearing the mask is helping protect other people around that person, so it’s always nice for our staff to know that other people will be wearing a mask so hopefully that will be more protective of our staff as well,” adds Joseph.

“I know if I can keep my staff healthy, I can keep my guests healthy. But if I can’t keep my staff healthy I can’t open because they’re not coming back to work. That’s a pragmatic issue. But not only that, from a moral concern as an employer their health has to be my number one priority,” Michel states.

Meanwhile, the age group 60 and older – the most at risk from the virus – are weighing-in on the subject. The SeniorList is out Friday with a new report, which finds 76 percent “disapprove” or “strongly disapprove” of an individual’s decision not to wear a mask in public.

TheSeniorList report discloses the opinions of U.S. seniors on wearing masks and concerns on catching COVID-19, how often they leave the house (and for what activities), differences based on political affiliation, and observations of younger adults’ habits.

Other key findings include:

  • Fifty-six percent of seniors are “very” or “extremely” concerned with catching COVID-19. Just 14 percent of seniors say they are “not very” or “not” concerned.
  • Sixty-four percent of Republicans “disapprove” or “strongly disapprove” of not wearing a mask compared to 85 percent of Democrats.
  • Most seniors (66 percent) are only leaving their house a “few times per week” or “not at all.”
  • Eighty-six percent of seniors are wearing a mask “every time” they are in public places.
  • In all areas of the country (rural, urban, suburban), seniors are observing that less than half of adults ages 35 and under are wearing masks “all” or “most” of the time.