Feds now encouraging Americans to wear face masks; Springfield stores see some customers following

Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 6:40 PM CDT
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President Donald Trump has announced new federal guidelines recommending that Americans wear face coverings when in public.

The president immediately said he had no intention of following the advice himself, saying “I’m choosing not to do it.”

The guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control encourage people, especially in areas hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, to use rudimentary coverings like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks to cover their faces while outdoors.

The new guidance raises concern that it could cause a sudden run on masks if Americans turn to private industry to meet the expected surge in demand.

On Friday as those recommendations were about to be released, we visited a pair of well-known Springfield supermarkets to see if mask-wearing was gaining traction.

We dropped by Harter House, known for its meat section, and Momma Jean's, a natural-food store, where it appeared that more-and-more people are taking it upon themselves to wear masks and/or gloves when they go out.

"Probably about 50 percent of our customers," answered Momma Jean's co-owner Susie Farbin-Kawamoto when asked how many shoppers were donning masks.

"Some are really vigilant," added Harter House Assistant Manager Michele Kauffman.

Not as vigilant as a customer in the state of Washington seen in the accompanying video who had a plastic-bubble-like poncho completely covering their head and torso.

"But I would not be surprised to see someone come in dressed like that," Kauffman said.

Josette Tilley decided to strap a bandana around her mouth for the first time on Friday as she visited the Harter House after hearing that the federal task force was reconsidering its stance on wearing facial covering.

"There was conflicting information as to who should be wearing masks and gloves," she said.

Tilley decided to try it because she felt it was the right thing to do for both her and those fellow shoppers she was going to be around.

But Tilley admitted it took some getting used to.

"It fogs up your glasses," she said with a laugh. "And I think there's a feeling of people thinking you're a little odd or weird but I'm also thinking of others because you could be a carrier and not realize it."

"Now that those items are more available, if you have them I would use them," replied Kauffman when asked if she would recommend to customers that they wear masks when they go to the store.

It will certainly take a while though for Americans to get used to the masks that are much more common overseas. And although the stores we visited are doing everything from making separate entrances to having cashiers use hand-sanitizers and disinfecting carts and credit card machines, they're letting their employees decide if they want to wear masks or gloves.

"It's not required as an employee because number one they can't find them," Farbin-Kawamoto said. "Right now I'm trying to talk my sister into sewing 150 of them."

"We're not making it mandatory," Kauffman said. "But that could still happen. It's all been talked about and it's looked at every single day."

Get used to it though. There's a good chance you'll be seeing more of the general public looking like bank robbers in the coming days as the new normal continues to evolve.

"This whole experience has been extremely surreal," Kauffman said.