Chamber President: Frederick County Businesses Concerned About Possible Mask Mandates, Capacity Restrictions

Rick Weldon, President, CEO, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce

The Board of Health will be discussing & possibly voting on these issues Thursday night.

Frederick, Md (KM) Whether to imposeĀ  an indoor mask mandate and limit public gatherings of 25 or more due to increases in local COVID-19 cases is before the Frederick County Board of Health. The panel, consisting of the County Executive and the County Council and chaired by Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, will be discussing these issues during a meeting Thursday night beginning at 7:00 PM.

Rick Weldon, President of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, says he has polled members on this topic over the past two years. He says the respondents range from business owners who would prefer the government implement mask mandates;; members who would prefer the government leave to them to develop their own policies to keep employees and customers safe from COVID; and those who don’t want the government involved in establishing mandates.

He notes that times have changed since the Pandemic began 18 months ago. “We know that the Omicron doesn’t result in nearly as severe in health outcomes. Certainly, it’s worse for the unvaccinated than it is for the folks who are vaccinated and boosted,” he says.

If the Board of Health imposes a mask mandate and puts limits on public gatherings of 25 or more, it could hurt local businesses such as fitness centers, barbershops, and hair and nail salons which  involves employees having close contact with customers. “Any kind of entertainment venue obviously  is concerned about the economic impact of those,” he says.

Food services businesses are currently taking a hit. “We’ve had many, dozens of food service service  establishment had to close because of either worker shortages, or concerns about the virus. So if the government steps  in with a new set of mandates, I think it’s going to have  a cumulating and rather negative impact,” says Weldon.

He also says there could be some business owners who protest in some way. “They’ll be some businesses that kind of push back, revolt a little bit,” says Weldon. “We had health clubs who kind of banded together 18 months ago to push back, to get their clients to do call-ins and letter writing campaigns to lift some of the mandates. We’ll see some of that.”

But in the end, Weldon says most businesses will comply, and try to make these mandates work for them. “They don’t any choice,” he says. “If the Board of Health passes a 25-person gathering restriction, I have cancel all of my Chamber live events because they’re all 25 or more.”

If the Board of Health approves mask mandates and restrictions on public gatherings of 25 or more, Weldon hopes it will have some provisions  where these restrictions are lifted when the COVID statistics decline to  a certain level. “ICU utilizations, hospitalization rates, new case infection rates. Just something specific that’s transparent that everyone can see and understand. I think that’s the best way to set public policy,” he says.

By Kevin McManus