When the New York Department Health ordered that masks would be required indoors everywhere, our store mobilized to comply with the regulation.

We prepared signage to remind our employees, visitors and customers of the regulations at points of entry to our store. We communicated a protocol to our management and staff for addressing non-compliers. We ordered 4,000 more masks, bringing our total since the pandemic began to 24,950, for visitors, employees and customers who neglect to bring their mask to our store.

Since Dec. 13, we have been in total compliance with the regulation. We have spent valuable time, during one of the busiest periods of the year, looking to see if our customers and visitors are complying with our mask regulation. Nearly all of our visitors and customers since Dec. 13 have worn masks; most of those who didn’t, were quick to don their own, or ours, when reminded.

Of course, there have been a very few who have refused to wear a mask at all in our store. So far, everyone we encountered who refused to wear a mask has been asked to leave the store. Essentially, we have endeavored to follow this New York state regulation, just as we follow every other regulation.

Cattaraugus County did no one any favors when its elected leadership decreed they “would not enforce” the regulation. Some of the non-compliers we escorted from our store cited the county non-enforcement as justification for their resistance. We would all have been better served if the county had said nothing, or at least, had said they would review it first before they decided to enforce.

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As long as they’re not going to “enforce” this regulation, maybe they could tell us all what other regulations they choose to enforce or not enforce. 

We believe in helping to protect all of our employees, customers and visitors, even more so during the pandemic. If the Department of Health says its regulation will help, we comply.

We’re embarrassed by our county officials who claim we “lack the will or resources”. More likely, they lack the dedication their constituents expected of them when they were elected.

(David Ried is owner of Ried’s Food Barn in Olean.)

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