With the rise of Delta cases, masks are making a comeback in local businesses
August 29 – MORGANTOWN – For the first time in over a year, Quantum Bean Coffee began to feel secure enough to accommodate customers without a mask.
However, it didn’t take long for that sense of relief to wear off and face masks to make a comeback.
“We’ve never brought back seats since the first round of COVID, so we’ve only had take out since it all started,” said Samuel Bonasso, owner of the cafe. “So it’s just not coming back, but we’ve reinstated our mask requirement for entry.”
With the increase in COVID-19 cases, largely due to the Delta variant, signs requiring masks are once again hanging in the windows of several businesses. Quantum Bean is just one place to bring back precautions after a brief hiatus.
Caitlin O’Connell, manager of River Birch Cafe and Riverview and Brew, both in the Wharf District, said precautions had mostly remained the same throughout the duration of the pandemic.
O’Connell said companies have slowly started allowing vaccinated employees and customers to come without masks; however, mask requirements have since been reinstated for employees.
“We just looked at our numbers to see when we’re going to force guests to wear masks again,” she said.
Rachel Dower, co-owner and stylist of Cooper James Hair Salon in Cheat Lake, shared a similar story of how the salon is responding to the rise in cases.
With West Virginia University students returning to campus and children returning to school, Dower said the salon decided it would be better to reinstate mask requirements indoors. from the studio.
“We just felt it was safer for everyone involved,” she said.
While some companies start implementing precautions early on, others are basing their next steps on state guidelines and suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is the case for the WOW! Factory, a pottery store in Star City. Monica McGraw, studio director, said the studio continued to require masks for unvaccinated guests. Although operating at full capacity, staff work to distance groups socially as best they can.
“Depending on how things develop, we are content with whatever will ensure the safety of our staff and customers and create the most relaxed, fun and creative environment for them while remaining safe,” McGraw said.
Vaccine deployments presented a light at the end of the tunnel, but the spike in cases raised concerns about what could happen next for local businesses, including the potential for another shutdown.
“I think it’s something every business owner thinks about,” Bonasso said. I don’t think closures are going to be the answer to our problems, as long as we can follow a few simple rules. “
O’Connell said most of the students worked at the River Birch Cafe and River View and Brew, leading many employees to wonder what would happen if another shutdown was implemented. She said she luckily didn’t think the business would be too badly hit if this happened.
During the pandemic, River Birch saw a significant increase in take-out and retail sales, which kept them afloat throughout the initial shutdown. As vaccines became more widely available, coffee saw sales increase by more than 1,000% in April.
“One thing that most people don’t have access to is a very expensive coffee machine,” she said. “Even if that’s the only selling point, we can at least do it with a smile and just try to make people feel safe while we’re doing it for them.”