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With masks, a little civility goes a long way

| July 23, 2020 1:00 AM

The governor’s July 15 directive that mandates the use of face masks in various public settings has one clear goal — curbing the community spread of COVID-19.

The requirement wasn’t meant to pit neighbor against neighbor or cause kerfuffles at the grocery store, and yet there have been isolated incidents of people’s tempers getting the best of them.

A weekend flare-up at a Whitefish grocery store that ended with two people being cited over a mask fight — one for criminal mischief and the other for disorderly conduct — prompted the city of Whitefish to send out a letter asking people to “be kind and respectful of one another.”

Is this what it has come to? Our local government leaders have to spend their time reminding citizens to play nice?

It’s been a trying year for everyone. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic on some level, but no matter what your personal opinion is about wearing masks, it’s not too much to ask that we be civil to one another.

Whitefish City Manager Dana Smith’s advisory provided some good information about navigating the mask environment. Some points are worth repeating.

The governor’s directive doesn’t provide for criminal or civil citations for those who don’t wear a mask.

“If you see someone without a mask in a public setting, please ask to speak with the store manager rather than trying to self-enforce the mask requirements,” Smith noted.

Complaints can be filed with the Flathead City-County Health Department. Don’t call 911 or the non-emergency numbers for local law enforcement to report noncompliance with the mask mandate.

“If an individual refuses to leave a business after being asked by employees, it becomes a trespassing issue and the business can involve law enforcement at that time,” Smith further advised.

But remember that business owners already are under duress just to keep going as the pandemic persists. They don’t need the extra hassle of having to deal with disputes over masks.

What we’re hearing from local businesses is that by and large, most shoppers are adhering to the mask requirement with no fuss. That’s as it should be. Please remember that wearing a face mask is an easy way to do our part in protecting the health of our most vulnerable citizens.