‘We’ve been hurt enough’: Topeka business owner nervous COVID-19 mandates will return

Coronavirus

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Masking and social distancing mandates could be coming back to Shawnee County because of the Delta variant, leaving local business owner Debbie Harrod nervous.

Harrod said things had been feeling normal at her family-owned business Speck’s Bar & Grill without social distancing and masks. Since the Shawnee County Health Department has recommended people start wearing masks and social distancing again, she’s worried a mandate is next and they’re going to see a drop in customers like last year.

“Trying to wait on people and understand what they say and then people get up without their mask,” Harrod said.

With restrictions and mandates lifting locally months ago, life seemingly started to return to the way it was before COVID-19 for the Topeka business owner.

“People are coming back out, they’re happy to see each other, you know they feel safe when they’ve got their shot,” Harrod said.

But Wednesday’s announcement from Shawnee County’s Health Officer threatening to throw a wrench in her newfound normal. By recommending people wear masks in indoor spaces, the Shawnee County Health Department is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance, as cases of the Delta variant spiking across the country. The county isn’t the only group following the new guidance. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced anyone in a Kansas COVID-19 hotspot must wear a mask inside state buildings.

The Shawnee County Health Department’s recommendation also includes new guidance on gathering sizes, that state any inside events should be limited to no more than 50% capacity to allow for social distancing.

“It’s very hard to run your business at fifty percent, you make no money. A lot of businesses can’t survive it, especially small businesses,” Harrod said.

There have been five consecutive weeks of increasing Delta variant cases in Shawnee County, a strain 60 percent more contagious than the previous, according to the health department. Dr. Locke said the vast majority of cases and hospitalizations are in unvaccinated people.

Harrod thinks if mandates come back, it will cause the opposite response from the community.

“I had COVID and I would’ve never gotten a shot, except for I wanted businesses not to close,” Harrod said.

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