As brick-and-mortar businesses in Culpeper County reopen and invite customers back, the commonwealth’s new face-mask rule seems to be going over well.
On Friday, the day Gov. Ralph Northam’s order took effect, Culpeper shoppers appeared to understand the need for the mandate and complied with it. At a random sampling of major retail stores, most shoppers wore face coverings or had one in hand, ready to put on.
“I don’t like having the government tell me what to do,” Madison County resident Rana Hockman said as she and her husband, Danny, were on their way into Lowes.
“I’ve got mixed emotions about it,” Danny Hockman said of the governor’s order that Virginians wear masks inside public indoor spaces. “This is a free society. But I understand the need for masks to protect other people.”
Among most of the people the Star-Exponent interviewed, that tension between liberty and prudence was apparent. Some area residents said they recognized the science behind the masks. Others expressed unhappiness at being told how to behave.
In practice, Northam’s order is largely voluntary. Criminal prosecutions of those who refuse to wear a face covering are unlikely.
“This is not about punishing people,” the governor said last week. “That’s not what we’re going to do here. We’re trying to promote safety.”
Two biological scientists, a local couple who were shopping at Walgreens, said they feel strongly that everyone should wear masks.
“Until we get a vaccine, wearing masks seems the judicial thing to do,” the husband said. He and his wife requested anonymity to avoid repercussions from their neighbors.
“We’re scientists, we understand everything behind all this,” he said. “It won’t stop the spread, but it can prevent a lot of the spreading. Think about the elderly, your parents; wear a mask for them.”
Bealeton resident Kat Brady said the mask-wearing order is counterproductive. She said she thinks Virginia or the U.S. government should have instituted such an order earlier.
“I wear a mask regardless, I have from the beginning,” Brady said as she finished shopping at Lowes.
A recruiter for a government contractor, Brady was laid off some weeks ago and is now home with her three children—a 12-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 2 and 10.
“My two boys both have asthma and my 2-year-old is immuno-compromised, so I need to make sure they’re protected,” she said. “But to each their own. I’m not telling anybody what to do.”
For Madison County resident Robin Brown, the issue is more complicated. She is deaf in one ear, and has profound hearing loss in the other.
“I rely on lip-reading a lot,” Brown said outside Culpeper’s Target store. “I see the need for people to wear masks because of the virus. But if I can’t see people talk, it makes it impossible for me to communicate.”
Although Northam’s order excuses an individual from wearing a mask if she has a health condition, Brown needs some people to move their mask aside so she can read their lips.
“It keeps me in the dark some of the time, so it can be frustrating,” she said. “But people generally are understanding, and we find a way to work things out.”
Jazmyn Daguid clerks at one of Culpeper’s two Walgreens drugstores. Her boyfriend owns 1809 Restaurant & Lounge in Culpeper Town Square shopping center, at the former site of its Weis supermarket.
“Personally, I’m not nervous,” Daguid said when asked about interacting with customers in recent months who could be carrying the novel coronavirus. “I’m not worried for myself, but I take precautions for my kids.”
The Culpeper mom, a cashier, said she has a 17-month-old with breathing problems and an older son with asthma, and cares for three other children at home.
“My boyfriend and I, we have a whole routine when we get home, we undress in the garage, shower immediately, use sanitizer,” Daguid said. “We just upped the ante on all our cleaning.”
On his way into Target, Culpeper resident Billy DeJarnette said, “Who knows when COVID will weaken? We might as well wear masks until that happens.”