Los Angeles County again imposed a mask mandate on indoor public environments Saturday night in response to the Delta variant spreading through the area, leaving business owners outraged and exhausted by the mixed messages.
“As of midnight Saturday, it’s a reality. So everyone in LA County, whether you’re vaccinated or not, has to wear a mask when you’re in. So that’s our reality now, our new reality.” Angela Marsden, owner of the Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill in Sherman Oaks, California, told Fox News. The restaurant owner turned heads and hearts with her viral video criticizing California’s double standard regarding last winter’s COVID restrictions, and once again saying she chooses to defend her community against governmental force majeure.
The reverse in the policy comes despite 61% of the county’s residents already being fully vaccinated.
“We actually had complete freedom for a month to be able to be inside and not have to wear a mask,” she said.
In many ways, California is the starting point for the government’s COVID-19 vaccine messages as officials continue to plead and encourage their voters that it will save their own lives and the lives of others. But Marsden said the reaction many of its customers are having to the ever-changing regulations is nothing but confusion and fear.
“It creates anger. It creates confusion. And, you know, the funny thing is, in my opinion it causes more hesitation about the vaccine,” she said. “I don’t understand the inconsistency, the confusion and the frightening that is actually being used by our leadership.”
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Marsden recounted numerous conversations with other restaurant workers in which they said they believe the move to force vaccinated citizens to wear masks undermines confidence in their effectiveness. One described panic attacks with the possibility of being unprotected; another expressed anger at not knowing what to believe about the threat of the contagion.
“He was so filled with fear, frustration and confusion, no clarity at all,” Marsden said.
She added: “Everyone is very volatile. People are tense like I’ve never seen them before.”
The mistrust of vaccines is not only the cause, but also the rising inflation rates observed across the country. Even though businesses are open to full capacity and regular business hours, this doesn’t make up for the staggering amount of lost revenue during the pandemic. Marsden said most restaurants are either breaking even or incurring losses, despite the restrictions lifted in recent months.
“If we could sell our businesses today, we would, but there’s nothing to sell,” she said.
According to Marsden, it was also difficult to take on new hands.
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“We can’t get people to work,” she said, explaining how many people who previously worked in kitchens and dining rooms have moved into corporate positions where remote working is possible. Those who do apply, but end up putting off the job offer, tell Marsden they’ll just wait for the pandemic to completely clear before returning to work, and complain about the county’s renewed mask mandate.
To make matters worse, those who do come to work earn $13-$14 an hour under California’s minimum wage law, which makes servers earn an average of $80-$100 an hour from tips.
“My employees earn more than I do,” Marsden said.
The shockwave of the pandemic is still sending ripples through seemingly every individual and industry, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, open or closed; but many like Marsden believe the road to aid is not paved with government interference.
“I do not understand why [the government] They can’t come to a decision!’ said Marsden. “I want them to stop meddling in our affairs and let us make our own decisions.”
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Despite fears of another closure, Marsden chose to continue with government tango and renewed restrictions.
“I love my staff. I love my company,” she said. A handful of employees have worked at Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill since the late 1970s, and Marsden said she considers them family.
For Marsden, the hope lies in her community.
“If more of us stay and try to change, it’s… [going to happen,]” she said.