COVID-19 cases are on the rise in LA County. And while hospitalizations have slowly increased, deaths remain relatively low. According to LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, if LA continues on this trajectory, new cases could strain hospitals, triggering a return to indoor masking mandates.
While many no longer want to cover their faces, Kristhy Morales has always kept hers on while at work. She is a waitress at an upscale restaurant chain in Burbank. She tells KCRW that once customers arrive at their tables, they often take off their masks, and when she goes to take their orders, she also faces pressure to unmask.
“Someone will say, ‘Oh, you can take the mask off with me, that’s okay.’ Or they’re a little bit more hostile and say, ‘What? I can’t understand you. And so you’re speaking slowly, enunciating and stuff, and it’s still a bit of a tense situation. So try to take that with a grain of salt. of salt and just do your job,” she explains.
Morales points out that due to the shift schedule, she does not work enough hours to qualify for health insurance.
“On the one hand, we are being let down by our employers, but we are also under pressure from customers to take off our masks. And so you’re just trying to navigate between those two things,” she says. “You’re just stuck trying to navigate public health care. And you don’t really know what COVID will look like for you either. So you’re just unlucky there.
For other service sector workers, Shriner urges them to wear a mask, especially if they don’t have health care or are immunocompromised,
“You certainly don’t want to bring the disease home to someone who could really have a very serious outcome. And I think it’s important for the public to be aware of that. That if your server wears a mask, he protects himself and he protects you.
She adds, “Wearing a mask is a statement saying, ‘I care about you as much as I care about myself. I think they are very effective in preventing transmission. And as a catering server, you hover over the food or cocktail you bring to the table. I would feel better if the serving staff were masked so things in their noses wouldn’t get into my food. And I think that might be something you could point out to people.
Dr. Kimberly Shriner, director of infectious diseases and prevention at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, adds that if an indoor mask mandate comes back, she hopes residents will comply. “When it rains, we wear raincoats. When we get into a car, we put on a seat belt. When we have a surge, we have to wear a mask. Are masks unpleasant and somehow foreign to our culture? A little. They are not harmful. They are very safe and they will protect you very effectively.
Still, she sympathizes with people who may be tired of covering their faces, acknowledging that they yearn for the pre-pandemic life. However, we will never go back “because we’ve been there and it’s different”.
She adds: “It’s not forever. We’ll have a week or two where we have to wear a mask diligently, and then maybe we’ll have a bit of a break for a while, or we can do our normal activities. You can do normal activities with the mask on, so that’s a shame and maybe inconvenient. But it saves lives and it’s a very simple and inexpensive thing to do.