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Wear the damn mask! (stock image)

A quick run to the nearest grocery, Kroger at Linwood,(#KrogerLinwood) was alarming this New Year’s morning. There was a combination of 19 employees and customers not wearing a mask at all or improperly. The store was just modestly busy.

I complained to Kroger corporate a few weeks ago. For whatever reason, it did seem to be better for a few weeks. There still were a few folks not covering up but the numbers were substantially reduced. This morning things were back to previous examples of bad mask etiquette and worse.

Why raise such hell? Who made me the mask police? Well, there are five seriously contributing factors for developing Covid-19. One, over the age of 65? Check! Second, a pre-existing condition? Check, I have a compromised immune system from a stem cell transplant.

Sadly, this store seems to be most frequented by low-income citizens and senior citizens. – certainly among the vulnerable.

Mask wearing should no longer be a debate. Those not cooperating should be pulled aside. Kroger hires off duty cops to stand at the door. I’d think a reminder from one of these officers would motivate most people. Of course, the same officers never seem to take a stroll through the parking lot either where I’ve been approached by panhandles numerous times. And I do occasionally give people a buck or two. You just never know another’s situation.

But some people need to read again the seriousness of wearing a mask. These guidelines from the Mayo Clinic should clear up any doubt.

As a former journalist, I’m observant. I do the mask count almost every visit. This morning, Jan. 1, was appalling.

Kroger workers: Four employees were not wearing a mask properly. All four had masks covering their face but not nose. Perhaps the most reckless was a bakery employee leaning over food products with who know’s what germs or matter decorating the baked goods.

Customers: And this was the worst-ever example. I counted 14 people without or not wearing a mask properly. Incredibly half had no mask at all. That’s by far the worst I’ve found it. I was astounded when leaving the store, strictly with pre-packaged products, to watch an older gentleman select a cart, wipe down the handle with a sanitary wipe and proceed into the store with no mask in sight.

I heard back from Kroger corp in December and appreciated its pledge to talk to the store management team. But this isn’t brain surgery here – it’s a management issue. The store manager says you wear your mask throughout the day and you do not remove it unless you’re on break or in a private space. If you cannot follow that work place rule you’re unemployed.

Admittedly, customers are tougher. Should they turn their security cops into the mask police? Well the hire-a-cops seldom seem to move from the front exit door or take their glance away from their cellphones. I’m not suggesting cuffing the offenders. But a polite reminder from a police officer would probably go a long way.

And, maybe a sign on the door that masks are required? Customers without a mask will not be given service.

And a personal note, I work in a small retail shop and we have the Indiana guidelines on the door. Anyone coming through the door without a mask is told they must wear one. We keep surgical masks on hand to give anyone without. I think during my average 15-18 hours a week since March I’ve had to remind a customer a handful of times and everyone quickly complied. We have a policy we have not yet had to implement, but if no mask we will not sell product to that customer.

This isn’t complicated friends. Wear the damn mask!