Though Gov. Tate Reeves and the Board of Aldermen have lifted the mask mandates in Mississippi and Oxford, some local businesses are still requiring customers to wear masks.
Several stores and restaurants posted statements on social media explaining to their customers that they will still be requiring masks to be worn. These businesses include Ajax Diner, Oxford Canteen, End of All Music, Big Bad Breakfast, City Grocery, Chicory Market and Cicada.
Chicory Market posted on Instagram that they will continue to require masks and limit the capacity for their market to keep staff and customers safe.
“We are a small family business that has managed, through much ingenuity and hard work, to stay open and COVID-free, and we want to protect this place for all in our community, whether or not they are eligible for a vaccine,” the post read.
Gretchen Williams, the owner of Heartbreak Coffee and Uptown Coffee, is requiring people to wear masks to the coffee shops. Williams said she believes it’s too soon to go back to full capacity with no mask mandate.
“Luckily, some of my staff has already had both of their vaccinations, and the majority of them have already had their first. I want to give them the opportunity to get vaccinated first,” Williams said. “Once that happens, then we’ll think about opening up for dine-in and letting customers come in without masks.”
Along with requiring masks, Williams said she does have some extra precautions set in place at both Uptown and Heartbreak Coffee.
“For the past year, we have had plexiglass that we’ve installed in Uptown. So we do have that barrier over there. We don’t have that here at Heartbreak,” Williams said. “But we’re lucky to have a drive thru over here (at Heartbreak). We’re encouraging people who don’t want to wear a mask to use the drive thru. That gives us a little bit more space.”
David Shaw, the owner and general manager of Sneed’s Ace Hardware Store, said that he’s requiring masks because the majority of his staff, including himself, haven’t been able to get the vaccine yet.
“For the most part, it works out pretty well. Most people understand, and we had people who appreciated it,” Shaw said.
Leighton McCool, the owner of Lost Dog Coffee, enforced wearing masks from the very beginning of the pandemic, and her business was even among the first to shut down last March when the pandemic began.
“To me, the mask is about saving people’s lives, like my dad,” McCool said. “I’m just grateful that my dad hasn’t had it. He’s double vaccinated now, so I feel better, but that’s who I worried about more than anyone.”
Lyn Roberts, the manager of Square Books, said that because the pandemic is still going, she is following the recommendations made by scientists, community health providers, state health providers and the health department to continue wearing masks.
“Until our entire staff is vaccinated –– which they are not –– and the majority of people are vaccinated, I think we have to continue wearing them,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that while she is not a scientific expert, she knows that there’s still a lot that is unknown about the coronavirus, such as whether people that have received the vaccine can transmit the coronavirus. She said her priority is to keep the employees and Oxford community safe in Square Books.
While some businesses are requiring customers to wear their masks, Lee Harris, owner of Funky’s Pizza and Daiquiri Bar, is letting customers make their own decision on whether to wear their mask or not.
“My staff voted that they wanted to keep wearing them,” Harris said. “We’re letting the people decide what they want to do. If (someone) wants to come in and wear a mask, feel free to. (If someone) decides to come in and not wear a mask, that’s fine.”
Harris said that while he is allowing customers to make their own decisions on whether or not to wear a mask, he is still going to be taking safety precautions.
“While cases are going down, it still is an issue. The virus didn’t just disappear,” Harris said.