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With B.C. mask mandate lifted, Okanagan businesses and customers navigate new norm

Click to play video: 'With B.C. mask mandate lifted, Okanagan businesses and customers navigate new norm' With B.C. mask mandate lifted, Okanagan businesses and customers navigate new norm
With B.C. mask mandate lifted, Okanagan businesses and customers navigate new norm – Mar 11, 2022

At Lakeview Market in Kelowna, it was a typically busy Friday morning, with customers streaming in and out.

But for the first time in a long time, many were maskless.

“I’d say about 50 per cent of our customers are coming in today wearing a mask,” said store co-owner Barb Hill. “I think we’ve all just started getting used to it.”

Read more: Masks still required inside B.C. airports and while flying, despite mandate ending

One of the maskless customers was Inga Angerer.

“I trust Bonnie Henry,” the senior told Global News. “Let’s try it out for a while and see what happens.”

On Thursday, B.C.s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, announced that on Friday at 12:01 a.m., face masks will no longer be required in most indoor public spaces such as stores and restaurants.

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Hill, who kept her mask on while speaking with Global News on Friday, said while she’s letting her staff decide for themselves whether to mask up or not.

Many opted to still wear a face covering to make sure customers feel comfortable.

“Many of our staff are choosing to wear a mask,” she said. “I think the first 24, 48 hours is always the most difficult time when these mandates come out and the change happens.”

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At the Wardrobe clothing boutique, the mandatory mask signage came off Friday morning, but owner Laura-Ann Kavanagh admitted it was done reluctantly.

“I was a little apprehensive, a little bit nervous for my staff and for my customers,” she said.

“I waffled back and forth a lot. I conferred with my staff yesterday about what their comfort was. I bounced the idea of a lot of people that I respected. I had to make sure I’m making the right decision.”

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Kavanagh said, in the end, she decided not to make masks mandatory in her relatively small store, but that staff will continue covering up.

“People are going to be all over whether they feel comfortable, and, I think right now, it’s just all about respect, which is everyone just continue the line, be kind, respect and that’s what we’ll do,” Kavanagh said.

Read more: COVID-19: Mask mandate removal worries immunocompromised Ontario residents

At Barn Owl Brewing, Thursday’s announcement came as a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one.

“When we heard the news yesterday, I think it was excitement. And then it was like, ‘What is this going to mean for both our staff and for our customers?” said co-owner Gray Brucker.

The announcement prompted the business to make a quick decision.

“We decided as an ownership group yesterday that we were going to allow our staff to wear them or not, according to their comfort. We’ll do the same for our patrons,” Brucker said.

Masks in B.C. were first mandated in November 2020. Since then, there was a short period when face coverings were not required, but they were mandated again last summer.

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While as of Friday they are no longer required, some people told Global News they will continue to mask for the time being.

“I think it’s still the right thing to do, still a little risky,” said Lakeview Market customer Mervyn Scott.

For others, it’s just become second nature.

“I just totally didn’t think about it coming into the store, ” said Magda Recsky. “I just threw it on because that is what I have been doing.”

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