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DeKalb County business owners respond to governor's COVID-19 mask mandates, penalties

The kit of sanitizing items that will be in each classroom at Founders Elementary School in DeKalb. District 428 schools are continuing to prepare for the return of students even though the year will begin with remote learning.
The kit of sanitizing items that will be in each classroom at Founders Elementary School in DeKalb. District 428 schools are continuing to prepare for the return of students even though the year will begin with remote learning.

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Only once during the novel coronavirus pandemic can James Tucker recall a customer giving him an issue when asked to wear a mask.

This is why the Sycamore Antiques owner, other business owners, and law enforcement officials said the new rules announced my Gov. JB Pritzker enforcing mask mandates and penalties – including a felony for anyone who assaults a retail worker enforcing masks – won't have much of an effect.

"We have required masks and have since April," Tucker said. "There's been no resistance. Well, one customer came in without a mask and we told him you have to have a mask. He went 'F you' and all of that. I told him to just go to Florida. That was the only case when we had a person that didn't wear a mask and left because he wouldn't wear one."

The order requires businesses, schools and daycare facilities to make “reasonable efforts” to ensure that patrons and employees wear face coverings when they cannot maintain a six-foot distance from others. Reasonable efforts can include such things as posting signage that state face coverings are required, giving verbal warnings to customers to wear face coverings, offering a mask to patrons and asking customers to leave if they refuse.

Under the new rules, businesses found to be out of compliance will first be given a written warning. A second offense can result in having some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with health guidelines. If businesses refuse to comply after that, they can receive a class A misdemeanor notice and be subject to a fine ranging from $75 to $2,500.

DeKalb County State's Attorney Rick Amato said he doesn't see the new rules having much of an effect in the county.

"I feel our county and our community is doing a really good job of handling COVID," Amato said. "I think the community at large does a lot of good when it comes to self-imposing masks and being respectful of other people. Our health department has done a terrific job of managing the process."

Amato said the DeKalb County Health Department has been on top of handling complaints and expects that to continue.

DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said he expects the health department to continue to run point on enforcement even with the new rules in effect.

"What we found to work out very well here is this is referred to the health department," Scott said. "They are the ones following up on any complaints. They have a protocol they follow so law enforcement isn't really directly or indirectly involved."

Jane Levinsky, owner of Studio One Salon and Spa in DeKalb, said she's glad the new rules are on the books to provide another level of support.

"It's easier for small businesses to follow through with protocol as opposed to us be the bad guy when people don't agree," Levinsky said. "There is such a divide on wearing a mask and not wearing one. Having it come from the governor makes it easier to regulate within individual businesses."

Levinsky said her or her staff hasn't run into any problems with customers not wearing masks. Since her business involves close contact with people that can't really be avoided, they've been creative in scheduling appointments with clients to help facilitate more breaks throughout the day.

She said the new rules will help close the gap between businesses that enforce masks and social distancing and those that don't.

"I'm not saying it of my industry but across the board in general we see how some have masks, some don't," Levinsky said. "Some social distance and some have little regard for who it is affecting."

As someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer, Levinsky said wearing the mask is about more than just protecting oneself.

"Me getting COVID is pretty much the end," Levinsky said. "You can't just say 'I'm safe, if I get it so what?' You have to think about other people. I can't work now because my job requires being close to people and I can't do that.

"You have to be mindful and respectful of people around you and who they might be in contact with," she said. "Having this mandate from the governor makes it easier for everyone. And hopefully it won't be for that long if we all do it."

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