New sign at Bookends & Beginnings

Monday in Evanston looked a lot like Sunday.

Even though the indoor mask mandates both across Illinois and in Evanston were lifted on Monday, plenty of store employees, customers and even pedestrians on the sidewalk still had their mouths and noses covered.

“I’m just more comfortable wearing one,” said Marianne Weisert, as she browsed for reading materials, masked up at Bookends & Beginnings downtown.

“Nobody in my family is having a problem with masks,” Weisert said, including her young grandchildren.

Bookends & Beginnings did take down a “mask required” sign on the front door, and replaced it with one saying “Please Wear A Mask.”

Store owner Nina Barrett said there was a staff meeting Monday morning, “where we reached a consensus on how we’re comfortable,” namely, all employees wearing masks, and customers being asked but not required to do so.

By early afternoon, all customers except one already had masks on when entering, and the one without a mask did put one on voluntarily after asking about store policy.

Barrett said “we’re a small business” where staff members are “exposed to a lot of different people and each other” in relatively small quarters.

Barrett noted that her store managed to stay open nearly every day after the state-mandated shutdown in 2020, and says wearing masks was a big reason why.

“I think it’s great we’re getting to the point” that the government’s mask rule was lifted due to diminishing COVID-19, Barrett said, “but we still feel cautious” and want to keep the extra layer of protection for now.

At Saville Flowers nearby, employee Shane Franken was masked up as well.

Saville Flowers employee Shane Franken.

“Having masks has not deterred anyone from coming in” during the pandemic, she said. “In fact, we had more people then ever.”

Franken said masking at the florist shop is now up to individual workers, but “I’m going to wear one.”

She noted that employees “will read the customer,” and potentially base their own mask decision on what a shopper seems to want.

But at Newport Coffee House, also downtown, masks are still required by the shop for both employees and customers, even if not by the government.

Of course, unlike a bookstore or a florist, it’s possible to eat and drink inside a coffee shop.

Tom Morrissey, a barista at Newport, said they decided to keep the mask policy in place “to keep our customers feeling comfortable. We do care about their well-being.”

“I don’t want to see another spike” in COVID, Morrissey said.

Private businesses do have the right to require masks, even if the government mandate is over. However, not all stores are doing so.

At Target, one of downtown’s busiest shopping locations, the “masks required” sign was gone, with nothing about recommendations in its place.

However, a stroll through the store found that the overwhelming majority of both customers and employees had masks on.

And another stroll, down the sidewalk, also saw quite a few masked pedestrians, perhaps about half, in a non-scientific estimate.

Sally Lipscomb was one of those still masked up. Lipscomb is helping to sponsor refugees from Afghanistan, and was taking a refugee (also masked) to English lessons.

Lipscomb said she’s staying masked due to “a vulnerable health situation and to protect others.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” she added.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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