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Facemasks For All?

One headline on the Internet posted even before the Memorial Day week had ended was right on the money – “At Put-in-Bay, the party goes on despite the pandemic!” If you didn’t know any better, you’d have thought there was no worldwide Coronavirus pandemic at Put-in-Bay over the Memorial Day Weekend. With Governor Mike DeWine allowing bars and restaurants to reopen with mandated safety guidelines, a pent-up, well-behaved mainland populace tossed any cares about Covid-19 to the wind. It came to Put-in-Bay to enjoy a perfect-weather weekend outdoors.

Albeit there were probably somewhat fewer people than a typical Memorial Day Weekend, the island was its usual busy self with boats in the harbor, Put-in-Bay golf cart rentals in the streets, and outside venues packed. This surprised many who did not know what to expect, given the uncertainty of everything these days. Visitors were not disappointed despite some attractions being closed and most businesses being short-staffed.

Even With Facemasks, Some Things Remained Closed

Among the things visitors weren’t able to do were going up in the Monument, visiting the Put-in-Bay Visitor’s Center, playing a round of mini-golf at Perry’s Cave, checking out the winged insects at the Butterfly House, exploring the caves, or touring the island museums.

They could not even shop at the Resale Shop, but that did not stop the fun everyone seemed to have just being away from home and feeling alive for a change. The business people and their employees were masked, but precautionary facemasks worn by the visiting tourists were nowhere near what the Surgeon General or the CDC would have approved of. This, of course, had many islanders concerned because the island had been one of the safer Ohio communities to live in during the Memorial Day weekend.

Now that island restaurants, bars, lodging, and attractions are reopening, the question remains, how do we protect ourselves and our visitors from the unseen enemy of Covid-19? We all know the virus hasn’t magically disappeared. Needless to say, the island faces situations quite a bit different from the mainland when it comes to living, working, and vacationing here. Not only do islanders want to remain healthy and COVID-19-free, but the majority of visitors coming to the island(s) also want to be assured that the risk of catching the virus is relatively minimal.

The biggest challenge of dealing with Covid-19, however, falls not only on the business community but on everyone, including those visitors who come from the four points of the compass. The crowd may change each day, but the daily hard work of keeping the island virus-free won’t.

From the time anyone leaves the mainland, the challenges begin: the lines and waiting for the ferry, the crowds on the boats, the lineups to get on the bus, the taxi ride or renting golf carts and bikes, the crowded sidewalks downtown, the wall-to-wall people in the close quarters of the bars, restaurants, and pools, the line and an elevator ride to the top of the Monument….the list goes on and on.

These things are the battlefield of the Covid-19 pandemic. You won’t be catching the virus outside in the fresh air with a cool lake breeze blowing, but the opportunities are still ripe on the islands to come in contact with the unsuspecting and unexpected carrier of Covid-19.

For those concerned about staying safe, the absence of masks over the Memorial Day weekend in many crowded areas was a huge disappointment, given all the safety guidelines out there. The islands no longer qualify as a relatively safe zone regarding Covid-19. So in the meantime, each island business must fine-tune its response to the virus and keep its employees and customers healthy.

For example, Miller Ferry safety guidelines for the ferry ride to Put-in-Bay include social distancing while waiting for the ferry, those in their car staying in their cars, facemasks for its employees that come in contact with customers, sanitizer on hands, sanitizing handrails, collecting tickets with gloves on and more. Interestingly, while passengers are not required to wear masks while riding ferry boats in Ohio, those riding the Canadian ferries to Pelee Island must wear them.

The government failed to provide precise Coronavirus safety guidelines for many of the unique island businesses. But you can be assured everyone is jumping through hoops they never dreamed of to stay legal, open, and healthy, just like Miller Boat Line is doing. Businesses are being asked to keep you safe, but you, as a visitor, must help keep the people who serve you on the islands safe, too.

The biggest challenge businesses will have this summer is keeping their employees healthy. Sick employees are worthless to an employer, plus they endanger fellow employees and roommates. They also cause a complete shutdown of a business open to serve the visiting public, cottagers, and island residents.

Employees & Facemasks

As for those individual island employees who get sick, they can have their summer ruined by being sick, quarantined, and hospitalized, plus losing the income they need to attend college. For most island businesses, the problems go far beyond having one sick employee who, under normal circumstances, could be sent home and returned to work in a day or two. There’s the risk of business closure with all the sanitizing, having to test all your employees, and reopening all over again. Think about the other young people on the island working their summer jobs.

What happens if one gets sick in one of the employee dormitories or has a second job in another business? It’s also a given that young people tend to party together when the day is done, so there must be concern about Corona’s spread even when work is over.

Given the current conditions of the pandemic, you have to ask yourself if you want one of the young bartenders, waitresses, cashiers, etc., to serve you without them wearing facemasks. The nature of their work sometimes has them coming closer to you than the recommended social distancing guidelines, but that isn’t all. Add tickets, paperwork, cash, credit cards, utensils, glasses, dishes, keys, and more to the list.

You’d have to be pretty brave to say “no problem.” considering they come in daily contact with scores of people from all walks of life all over the state and country. They’re young, old, tall and short, muscular and lean, of all races and economic levels, from the big city and small towns,

Republicans and Democrats, deniers and germaphobes, and the one thing they have in common is that Covid-19 is looking for them to be hosts. One West Shore summer resident who retired from providing respiratory equipment for those with lung issues said, “It’s like having peanut butter spread inside your lungs.”

If you research the countries that made facemasks in public mandatory, you’ll find their stats for deaths per million, cases per million, and new cases are a tiny fraction of the grotesque numbers in the U.S.

So in return for keeping you safe, please respect everyone you come in contact with by social distancing and wearing facemasks when you get close to others, both island employees and the hundreds of visitors you’ll find yourself around. It helps solve three problems, keeping yourself, others, and the island economy healthy

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