Nobody in Niagara-on-the-Lake has been more proactive than Sean Simpson when it comes to encouraging the wearing of face coverings inside public spaces, including his own pharmacy.
However, although “for the health of people in general, it’s the right thing to do, I’m just not a huge fan of making them mandatory. I’m much more pro-education.”
Simpson says he understands the need for the mask bylaw, with “a number of people who refuse to be educated. I think the devil is in the details, and how it’s enforced.”
At the pharmacy, he offers choices to those who can’t or don’t want to wear a mask. They can use his curbside pickup, without having to get out of their vehicle, or they can stay at home and have their order delivered.
What he worries about is for the potential for two people “coming at the wearing of masks from polar opposite directions” to become a heated argument, he says.
He points to a situation in Minden, Ontario, last week, where a dispute over wearing a mask into a grocery store resulted in police being called, and ended in a fatal shooting.
“I hope people will exercise some level of patience and understanding,” he says, “and those anti-masks will come around to accepting it’s for the protection of others.”
As a society, he adds, we need to accept that some discomfort is necessary until we have the science, including a vaccine, to further protect us.
He is also concerned that people who have been staying at home out of a need to protect themselves, may feel more confident going out because of the bylaw, “and get bent out of shape when they see others who won’t wear a mask. I’m worried about their reactions and expectations.”
He doesn’t want to see business owners having to become enforcers.
“It’s stressful enough running a business through a pandemic, without the stress of having to enforce a bylaw. I don’t want to be in the position of getting into a dispute over it.”
He says people are already agitated by the pandemic, and for some, having more rules to follow will make it worse.
“There will be people who like the rules and want others to follow them, and there will be others who think there are too many rules as it is. They will feel, wrongly I believe, that rules are taking their civil liberties away. But the bigger concern is how they will react to that. This has the potential to create more frustration on either side.”
Simpson says he would like to think that people will recognize the reason behind the bylaw, rise above their individual feelings and be tolerant of others.
But he’s concerned about those who won’t.
“People are so reactive these days. They want to come down hard on others. Let’s just be tolerant, everyone.”
He estimates about 75 per cent of his customers are already wearing a face covering when they come into the store.
“We want people to wear masks, and it seems to be pretty good already, but the refusals will come. And there is only so much you can do.”
Simpson says he’s hoping people will abide by the bylaw, and he won’t see any aggression. Most people understand masks help to protect others, he adds, and although nothing is 100 per cent effective, “if we all take all the precautionary steps, that’s better than no steps. It’s better for all of us. We’re all in this together.”