Thursday, April 25, 2024

Mask required for entry

Staff Writer | December 14, 2020 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Two customers walk into All Things Irish on Friday.

The man is wearing a mask, the woman isn't.

Sales associate Sharon Kearns quickly greets them with a chipper "Welcome" and approaches the woman, holding out a box of masks.

"If you don't have one, we have one for you," she says.

The woman smiles, takes a mask and puts it on.

"Thank you," she says.

It doesn't always go that smoothly.

All Things Irish, which has sold Irish imports and gifts on Sherman Avenue since 1998, is one of the businesses that requires customers to wear masks — and actually enforces it.

Owner Ilene Moss said she began to require masks in the store in March, the same month that the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Kootenai County.

Enforcement was a challenge at first, she said. It was sometimes tough on employees who found themselves faced with an unhappy customer.

“People can get so argumentative about it,” Moss said.

But masks remained non-negotiable. Moss said she looks to local and statewide recommendations for guidance, and she said the data is clear: When worn correctly, masks help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Panhandle Health District and the city of Coeur d'Alene both have passed mandates requiring people to wear masks when in public and unable to maintain social distance of at least 6 feet.

Local law enforcement officials have emphasized education over citations.

“I want to make sure my employees and my customers are safe,” Moss said. “I think people need to protect each other.”

To that end, All Things Irish employees offer masks to customers who don’t have one. Its policy is clearly stated on the front door.

Some people begrudgingly put one on and go about their shopping, Moss said. A few turn around and leave. Some have refused to put one on, walked around the store as if to make a point, then left. But most have no problem abiding by the policy.

“We have more who are happy that we require masks,” Moss said.

Often, Moss said, when someone chooses to leave the store rather than using a mask, other customers thank employees for enforcing the policy.

Curbside service is available for customers who say they can’t tolerate a mask for medical reasons.

Business is a bit slower this year than usual, Moss said, but she doesn’t think the mask policy has impacted sales. Those who respect the policy far outnumber those who refuse, she said.

“If they’re not willing to wear a mask to spend 20 minutes in the store to see what we’re all about, I wonder if they would be purchasing anything anyway,” she said.

Over time, Moss said, masks have become business as usual at All Things Irish. Fewer people decline to wear one now than in the spring.

“With so many cases, it’s a lot easier for people to accept,” Moss said.

As of Friday afternoon, a total of 12,618 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Panhandle Health District, including 9,847 total cases in Kootenai County. There were 219 new cases reported Friday.



All Things Irish sales associates Sharon Kearns, left, and Marianne Buley pose for a photo on Friday.

In the five northern counties, 142 people are reported to have died due to COVID-19 so far.

Though overall deaths are up, the number of respiratory disease deaths in Idaho, excluding COVID-19, are similar to previous years.

“I care about people,” Moss said. “I care about their safety. I have employees who are higher-risk and they wear a mask. I just want that respect from other people.”

Editor's note: Do you know of a local business that sets a shining example of responsibility during the COVID-19 crisis? Contact Assistant Managing Editor Bill Buley,