The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By David Stevens

Opinion: Freedom to stay masked also choice for the individual


Last updated 5/22/2021 at 3:55pm

Government's mask mandates have mostly been lifted across New Mexico and Texas. Declining numbers of COVID-19 cases certainly support a return to individual freedom that should never have been taken away.

Now it's time to fight for the rights of individuals — and the businesses they own — who choose to continue COVID-safe practices.

Laura Leal decided last week her popular Tex-Mex restaurant in Clovis will still require customers wear face coverings when they enter the Leal's lobby.

Right or wrong, she thinks it's the best way, for now, to ensure the safety of her employees and her customers.

The restaurant lobby is not nearly large enough to allow social distancing during lunch or dinner rushes and Leal has no interest in trying to make anyone prove they've received COVID vaccinations, she explained in a Facebook post.

And so the mask mandate stays in place until customers are seated. Her restaurant, her rules. You have to wear a shirt in there, too.

Leal said the decision has not been popular with everyone. One man was so angry, he stormed out and “I thought he was going to break the door,” she said.

The Facebook post drew about 15 comments, and most were critical of the decision.

“I hope y'all reconsider … and allow people to be free!” read one.

That's an interesting definition of free. Is Leal's also supposed to serve biscuits and gravy at 5 a.m. at a customer's request?

But those Facebook posters mostly took the correct approach in responding to the business decision — they said they would eat somewhere else until the mask mandate changes.

That's how this entire face mask issue should have been handled throughout the pandemic. Each private business owner should have been allowed to set their own standards for safety. Each business customer should have decided which business they frequented based on those policies.

The situation's the same now that government has mostly stepped back.

Our newspaper office last week relaxed our mask-wearing policy for customers and staff. We continue to encourage masks for anyone who feels it's safer to wear one, but we don't have big crowds in small spaces and so we don't feel masks are essential anymore.

If someone wants to stop doing business with us because of that policy, we certainly respect that decision.

Just don't break our office door, OK?

— David Stevens


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