With no state or local mask requirements, Cedar Rapids businesses put restrictions in place themselves

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 11:28 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - For the first Monday in months, Next Page Books, located in the NewBo district in Cedar Rapids, was open to customers this week.

To mark the occasion, owner Bart Carithers posted new signs at the entrance, telling customers they had to wear a mask if they wanted to shop inside.

“I never thought twice about it,” Carithers said. “I knew that when I reopened, I was going to require masks and have a number of other requirements as well.”

Beginning on June 26, when Next Page Books reopened, no more than four people can shop at a time and they all have to sanitize their hands first. While shopping, customers must keep their distance from each other inside. Carithers said he’s prepared to tell people they can’t come in if they don’t follow the rules.

“I haven’t had to turn away a single person,” Carithers said. “Everyone has come in with a mask on.”

Iowa is one of four states in the country where masks aren’t required by law anywhere, whether statewide or in certain cities because of local ordinances. As a store owner, Carithers said he felt requiring masks in his business was his responsibility, to protect his customers and himself.

“I am the sole employee. I need to take care of myself, too, because if I came down with the virus, I wouldn’t have any choice but to close the store for a good two or three weeks, and financially, I don’t know if I could survive that,” Carithers said.

Next Page Books isn’t alone, as most other stores in the NewBo and Czech Village districts have posted the same policies, informing customers to mask up before they shop.

A block away from the bookstore, Raygun is even selling masks stamped with its usual wit — but people need to wear a mask first before they can buy one in the store.

“Every Raygun store, we have purchased the medical masks that we are giving out for free, so there’s really not a reason for people not to wear a mask when they come in because we are providing them,” Kurtis Fox, the store’s manager, said.

Fox said most customers have been compliant since the store reopened in early June.

“We have had a few people who, they turn around and they leave because they don’t want to wear a mask while they shop,” Fox said.

But both Fox and Carithers said they wish the burden wasn’t just on the businesses to put these requirements in place.

“I would really like to see the state require masks pretty much everywhere. Everywhere I go, there’s people that are wearing them, and there’s people that aren’t,” Fox said. “We need to protect ourselves, so I would like to see more people wear them.”

“I know some states are requiring masks the minute you step outside. That might be too extreme, but I think it would be helpful if the state maybe mandated masks when you’re in a retail business or any other establishment,” Carithers added.

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