Is Mask Mandate Fair to Shreveport Businesses?
Update: The Mayor's Office reached out to clarify that businesses are not the only ones facing penalty and that under certain circumstances citizens can also be arrested for not wearing a mask while out in public. If a business contacts police about an unruly customer, they could face various criminal charges including 'remaining after being forbidden'. You can read those punishments in the actual order under 'Section 9'.
Shreveport's newly enacted mask mandate has a lot of people stirred up on both sides of the argument. Some say it's a violation of rights, others say its too little too late, others say the mandate doesn't go far enough. However, no matter how you look at it, Shreveport businesses will suffer. In fact, several of my friends who happen to be in the bar/retail business, claim that due to the new order that business yesterday evening dropped off a cliff and they had to turn away potential customers they really couldn't afford to turn away.
Look, I'm not here to debate whether or not the mask mandate was needed. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a scientist and I'm not any kind of authority on infectious diseases. However, as a citizen, I can't help but wonder if Mayor Perkins and the City of Shreveport didn't step over the line and/or mishandle this situation. We're not punishing those breaking the rules, we're punishing tax paying businesses who are already hanging on by a thread.
First off, the timing of the whole thing seemed a bit unfair. The Mayor announced Monday that a mask mandate would go into effect 5 pm Wednesday. However, no actual rules or guidelines were made available until 11 am Wednesday morning. So, while everyone knew a mask mandate was coming, nobody actually knew what that meant until roughly 6 hours before it went into effect. I can't speak for any business owners, but I would imagine finding out what exact rules you have to enforce and follow on that short of notice can't be easy. Plus, the mandate wasn't exactly written in the clearest language.
Secondly, the punishment is a bit harsh to say the least. During the Mayor's press conference, he mentioned that punishment for businesses found to be non-compliant to the executive order would be fined $500. However, in the actual order, the City is now threatening to cut off a business' water, pull their licenses to operate and shut them down indefinitely. And not because of the actions of the business but because of the actions of their customers. Customers, who at this point, they can't really afford to turn away.
Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, this mandate is seemingly directed specifically to punish and harm small businesses. Is the city going to cut off the water or pull the liquor license for WalMart? Doubtful. However, there's a hotline set up so citizens can turn in businesses who are not turning away private citizens who are not following the mask mandate. The way the order is written is to punish businesses that are struggling to survive a pandemic and financial crisis. Most places were closed and unable to operate for weeks and in some cases months...should they REALLY be forced to turn away customers or be indefinitely closed due to the actions of individuals beyond their control? Plus, in a city that seems to be facing a crime spike as well, can we really afford to take Shreveport Police resources away to follow up on every call they get complaining about someone not following the rules to another private citizen's liking?
Again, I don't want to debate whether or not a mask mandate is legal or right or whatever. And honestly, if someone took the City to court, they could probably get the mandate overturned. Just like many mask mandates have been overturned in other cities and states. My main concern about all this is that we're not punishing those who are violating the law, we're punishing businesses that are already struggling to survive. And not just punishing them, we're essentially putting them out of business forever for not turning away money and business they desperately need. Especially in a time when many a store and company are closing for good without the extra assistance.