As the world reopens this summer, some aspects of daily life have become more confusing than ever. Now that each business owner in Mendocino County can decide whether or not customers need to wear masks, people may find themselves at every doorway wondering, “OK, do I still have to wear a mask? And if I don’t have to, but still want to, will people then assume I’m not vaccinated?”
At Black Oak Coffee Roasters in Ukiah, owner Jon Frech has implemented a straightforward approach to ease customers into this new phase of the pandemic: offering people vaccinated against Covid-19 the option to take off their masks and put on buttons that declare them “Proudly vaccinated” while inside.
Near both entrances to the business on North State Street, customers will find a basket of buttons below a sign saying, “Vaccinated? Please take a button and feel free to enjoy the dining room without a mask.”
“So many of us have been dealing with masking indoors for so long, it just felt like a really good way to show solidarity with people who have gotten vaccinated,” said Frech, explaining that he also wanted to “celebrate people’s choice to help protect the health of others.”
And rather than just using a more passive honor system, Frech said having people put on the buttons to declare their vaccination status “felt like more of an intentional act, and that there’s more engagement of responsibility.”
When asked how people have been responding to the buttons, Frech said it has “mostly been positive,” but there have been negative comments posted on social media. “And I don’t mind it, because I think it’s important to engage in that conversation: Like, ‘what do we need to do, as a community, to keep others safe?’ And I don’t care if it’s controversial; we’re about public health here.”
“And it’s just practical, too, because every single person doesn’t have to come up and say, ‘Hey, I’m vaccinated, just so you know,’” he said, describing the buttons as “a way for people to wear something that looks kind of stylish,” though he admitted they do provide his business free advertising, as well.
When asked how he got the idea for the pins, Frech credited a “print shop in Healdsburg” for doing something similar, and said he ordered the buttons online.
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