Businesses react to new Olmsted County mask recommendations

(ABC 6 News) – Olmsted County has joined a long list of Minnesota counties with substantial COVID-19 transmission – bringing back mask recommendations.

There is not currently a widespread mask mandate in Olmsted County, but local businesses are still concerned that reintroducing masks in some capacity will hurt them financially.

"From a business standpoint, it’s not ideal because people are less willing to go out and do things and be out and about when there’s a mask mandate. It’s not comfortable," owner Nathan Schroeder said.

The Escape Challenge in Rochester just moved away from mask requirements in June. And now it’s preparing its employees to mask up again.

"Masking up for us is a really easy step, and we won’t require it for customers," Schroeder said.

The Escape Challenge won’t require it despite Olmsted County’s recommendations. They say they can safely keep groups from congregating inside and they say masks will hurt their business. The last thing they want is another shutdown.

"If some small mitigation efforts along the way are what we need to stay away from that then our employees and our staff and everybody are all for it," Schroeder said.

The Escape Challenge is not the only business feeling this way. ABC 6 News heard from another local entertainment business too upset to talk on camera. They agreed that a mask mandate would send them under. But Olmsted County Public Health says they do not have plans for county-wide mask mandate as of now.

"At this time, I am not aware of any movement towards a mask mandate county-wide for all individuals indoors or anything like that," Graham Briggs, the director of Olmsted County Public Health, said.

When asked if a mask recommendation could actually work to slow the spread of the delta variant, Briggs said he hopes people and businesses will work together and mask up on their own. So that there doesn’t have to be a mandate.

"If everyone is saying together ‘let’s all wear masks and not have to be forced to do it, we don’t have to have requirements," Briggs said.

Olmsted County released a statement saying that starting Aug. 4, masks are now required in all Olmsted County government buildings.