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‘We're Losing Our Freedom Because They Want Their Freedom’: Business Owners Deflated By Return Of Indoor Masks

A side profile view of a man wearing a face mask as he works on his laptop at an indoor cafe.
Face masks will once again be mandatory indoors in L.A. County.
(Kojo Kwarteng
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Put away your lipstick and mustache wax, at least if you have to run errands or plan to grab a bite out in Los Angeles County. Masks are back, indoors at least.

The rising number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — chiefly among the unvaccinated — has moved the Department of Public Health to require everyone to wear masks indoors, even if you’re fully vaccinated. The change goes into effect just before midnight Saturday.

The previous rule, asking unvaccinated people to mask up in public, has so far been self-enforced. Now, health officials aren’t taking any chances.

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More than 1,900 new coronavirus cases in the county were announced Friday. That number has gone up every day for the past week. And a month after the state’s June 15 reopening, which included the phasing out of face coverings, officials say the case positivity rate is reaching “substantial” transmission levels again.

Meanwhile, local business owners are having a sad déjà vu.

Larry and Kathleen Ross own Blast From The Past, a comic book and collectable store in Burbank. Both fully vaccinated, they are understanding of the circumstances, but frustrated by the reinstatement of masks for everyone.

Larry Ross said he gets why the mask rule has returned, but he feels like it’s a step back.

“I'm very disappointed to have to go and re-mask,” he said. “So, I'm feeling some significant anger towards those who are refusing to vaccinate.”

Kathleen Ross echoed the frustration. “I'm feeling like we're losing our freedom because they want their freedom,” she said, referring to those who refuse vaccines and masks. She added that while about half their customers never stopped wearing masks, she suspects it will be harder to get customers to comply now that they’ve been able to be without a face covering for a month.

Edward Ackah-Miezah owns Cafe Ruisseau with locations in Santa Monica and Playa Vista. He said he’ll follow whatever public health officials recommend, but that he feels deflated.

“We just recently got back to being able to see each other's faces and feel a little bit of a connection in that way, but I think people have only really been comfortable doing that in the last couple of weeks,” Ackah-Miezah said. “Now we're going to go back to wearing masks, which is discouraging as staff, but also discouraging for customers as well. It just feels like we're going backwards.”

Gym owner Gina Baski said while public safety is paramount, the financial stakes are pretty high for the fitness industry.

She owns TriFit Club & Studios in Santa Monica and said that some customers have already mentioned they’ll go work out in Orange County instead, where they don’t have to wear masks while exercising indoors.

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“We are going to have another wave of cancellations in our membership due to the mask mandate,” she said.

What questions do you have about vaccines?