Capitol Notes

Stewart’s balks at active enforcement of state’s mask requirement

New Yorkers are supposed to wear a mask when entering retail shops, and you’ll likely see a reminder of that requirement upon entering any Stewart’s Shops location in the state.

But if you don’t have your face covering on when you’re in the popular chain, there’s no guarantee that an employee will tell you to fix the situation.

And that direction comes from the top, as Gary Dake, president of Stewart’s, tweeted recently that he is not comfortable with asking his employees to engage in “active enforcement” of the state’s mask requirement inside of stores. He contended that enforcement would put people at risk, citing  “violent reactions” that have been sparked in some cases.

“Encouraging and educating is what I ask them to do,” Dake wrote.

The state guidelines for retailers that open their doors to customers don’t appear to allow for this type of wiggle room, as they say, “responsible parties shall not permit customers into the store without a face covering, if medically able to tolerate one, and are over age two.”

We invited Dake on the program to talk about the issue, and explain the complicated position his business is in, but he wasn’t willing to speak with us.

Erica Komoroske, a spokesperson for Stewart’s, told us Dake wasn’t interested because it “is such a hot button issue and people are so divided on this topic.”

“We want everyone to wear a mask, but we know we won’t be able to change listener’s minds in this interview,” Komoroske said in an email.

This lack of active enforcement may be causing some employees not to wear face coverings while on the job, according to a letter to the editor published in the Post Star.

Joseph Oswald, a Washington County resident, claims he has repeatedly seen employees not wearing face coverings, and eventually asked one worker for an explanation last month. “When I politely asked the Stewart’s employee why she was allowing this to happen, she replied that Stewart’s employees are not required to enforce their own directive,” he wrote.

Stewart’s is not the only business in New York that is not actively enforcing the state guidance, but most other businesses don’t  seem to be promoting their lack of enforcement on social media.

A state directive indicates that non-compliance by a business is subject to enforcement from local officials, but notes that state officials can play a role too. Most enforcement on the local level has simply consisted of efforts to educate businesses and patrons about the state mask’s requirement.



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