Manitobans concerned about the end of the indoor mask mandate as of Saturday are taking to the internet to promote businesses that will keep maskless customers out.
Collaborative directories of places in Winnipeg that will continue to require masks inside have cropped up on social media. One of the largest is a Google Docs spreadsheet that lists the names and addresses of more than 50 Winnipeg businesses, with notes on whether they will continue to require masks or proof of vaccination despite the change to public health orders. Others, including @SafeToDoMB on Twitter, share the mask policies of local businesses and organizations with thank-you notes and recommendations.
Unique Bunny, a local seller of Japanese and South Korean products, was proud to be featured on the lists. It will continue to require that customers wear a mask inside, assistant manager Kazumi Yoshimo said, regardless of pushback they had received after informing customers they’d still have to mask up.
"Since we announced our policy on our social media, some people gave us negative comments," she said. "Actually in the beginning (of the mask mandate), we’d have some angry customers who came inside and then refused to wear masks in store."
Yoshimo said she approves of community members working together to list businesses with a mask-mandated environment.
"We are definitely happy for that. I heard that lots of local businesses still require masks in store, so we feel kind of more (of a) connection with other local businesses and we can unite to protect our community together," she said. "I think that's really amazing."
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Chuck Davidson was more critical of the idea, calling it an "unnecessary stress" on businesses already dealing with a year and a half of pressure and restrictions.
"You're creating additional problems for businesses, that's not something we necessarily need to see at this point in time," he said. "I think so many businesses are under enough stress as it is."
Some online commenters weren’t supportive of the directories – on one spreadsheet, which is open for people to anonymously add and edit information, fake entries with criticisms of the directory and mask-wearing in general cropped up and were removed on Thursday.
Davidson emphasized that he understood the decision of many businesses to keep the mask mandate in place and that his office would continue to require masks.
He said businesses that keep the mask rule understand the needs of their clientele and it's a response to growing anxiety from customers after the province’s decision.
"We think it would have made better sense to just keep it in place, even if it's just for the next two weeks, or for the next month, until the general public is a little bit more comfortable with going in that direction," he said.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.