Masks or no masks? Calgary business owners cautiously transition and update policies

At HeadKandi Salon masks are no longer mandatory for staff or customers but that doesn't mean Calgary businesses are done with them.

“If our guests want to wear masks they wear masks, if they want us to wear masks, we wear a mask. We’re really going to take the lead of what the guests want us to do,” said Jereme Bokitch, owner of Butter Beauty Salon, Hedkandi Salon and Johnny’s Barber’s + Shop.

Bokitch said they’ve been following provincial guidelines but even though the mask mandate is lifted they want customers to feel comfortable.

He said some barriers will remain, especially at the sinks and increased sanitation is the new norm.

“I think our team has done such a great job making sure that it's safe and it's clean and we're doing everything that we're supposed to be doing and we're going to just continue to maintain that moving forward.”

The city repealed its mandatory mask mandate Monday. Under provincial rules, masks are still required on public transit, taxis and ride sharing services and in certain health care settings.

Business owners say it's been tough to make the decision on how to transition practically overnight.

“To be honest it’s sort of a live and let live approach, we want people to feel comfortable,” said Andrew Ferguson, owner, Kensington Wine Market.

Ferguson said staff or customers are no longer required to wear a mask at the store.

“Even though it doesn't maybe feel like the right time to just end everything, at the same time trying to mandate things moving forward is just probably going to create more problems than it will solve.”

WORRIED ABOUT BACKLASH

He admits while he does worry about backlash, he is hopeful there is patience and understanding.

“Whether our staff or customers want to wear a mask because it makes them feel more comfortable they're welcome to do that. What won'tbe tolerated is anyone judging somebody else for decisions they're making for their own safety,” said Ferguson.

Even though restrictions are ending, the pandemic isn’t over.

“I think that we are entering this territory of assessing your own risk tolerance and your values,” said Dr. Lynora Saxinger, infectious disease specialist, University of Alberta.

Dr. Saxinger said many healthcare workers who have been fully vaccinated continue to wear masks especially indoors and where ventilation is questionable.

“The times where I would highlight potentially still using a mask would be if you're in close quarters indoors with a mixed group of people and you're not sure of the vaccination status of everyone in the group so that would actually apply to a fair number of businesses that are fully open right now.”

Saxinger said it's especially important for people who are unvaccinated, children or anyone who may be undergoing cancer therapy or on immune suppressing drugs to continue wearing masks.

She said she plans to wear face coverings into the fall when more people will spend more time indoors and case numbers could spike.

“If we manage to get to vaccine levels and reduce transmission enough that we don't see any fall surges then I’d start feeling much more comfortable later in the fall, but at the moment, I'm kind of toe dipping a little bit and I think that that's okay.”

According to the province, 73.49 per cent of eligible Albertans, ages 12 and older have received their first dose of vaccine. Nearly half of eligible Albertans have received two doses.