Capital Region businesses say lifting mandate takes pressure off enforcing COVID rules

[anvplayer video=”5088678″ station=”998132″]

Without a mask or vaccine mandate, the rule book is changing for businesses. Individual businesses can still choose to require masks or vaccination if they want.

Businesses say they’re happy the burden of enforcing rules will no longer be on the staff. The owner of Lionheart Pub on Madison Avenue in Albany, Jerry Aumand, says this means he can run things normally again.

“I’m looking forward to sunnier skies ahead,” he said.

The guidance has acted as moving goal posts for the service industry to keep up with. Aumand says the previous mandates were even more hurtful to his business than the one the governor put into effect in December.

“The previous mandates were very egregious very difficult, and getting through that period was the most painful. Getting through this one, and the ease of everybody being vaccinated, or a lot of people being vaccinated, made it so much better,” he said.

During the latest mandate, businesses could choose to enforce masks or vaccination. The pub decided to enforce the latter for customers. Staff are also vaccinated. He says it was too hard to enforce masking at the bar.

“It was very demanding on monitoring and enforcement of everyone wearing their mask properly, we didn’t want to go through that again. Whether someone has the mask on properly, whether they get up and walk around, just couldn’t be done in this type of establishment,” Aumand said.

It’s also been complicated enforcing masks inside gyms, explained David Brown, President and CEO of the Capital District YMCA.

“And probably one of the biggest challenges has been with the spikes, the ups and downs, mask on, mask off— keeping members at the YMCA,” Brown said.

And that’s not been the only challenge for the YMCA.

“It’s been very challenging for us to find staff, it’s been very challenging for us to keep staff,” he said.

He says the most recent mandate did not make a dent in their membership, which he was pleased to see.

“We saw, initially, we saw a decline and then we saw the numbers slowly creep back up and they’ve stayed pretty steady,” he said.

Staff and kids in childcare programs will still wear masks because the mandate still applies to them. But for people working out, it will be up to the honor system. The YMCA is asking unvaccinated guests to mask up.

“It’s very challenging for us to police it. And we hope that people will be honest and if they’re not vaccinated wear their mask. We want to keep everybody safe,” Brown said.