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Dells businesses prepare for mask mandate, hope to avoid conflicts with customers

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WISCONSIN DELLS (WKOW) -- A mask mandate is nothing new for people in some of the biggest cities in the state, but it'll be a new experience for many people in Wisconsin -- including those in one of the state's biggest tourist destinations.

Dave and Mary Straugh have owned Mary's Place for decades, and this summer has been tough for them.

"Twenty-seven years we've been here," Dave said. "It's never been this bad."

Business is down 60 percent, but he's talking about confrontations with customers.

"A mask is not any kind of political party," he said. "It's just something to keep people safe."

Straugh says he's glad there will be a mandate soon because he knows it keeps people safe -- and that it's the best we have right now without a COVID-19 vaccine.

He just hopes people who want a hot dog or a sundae understand, too.

"It's a ma and pa, Mary and I," he said. "We're just trying to survive."

With so many people in the Dells in the summertime, and now the potential for the mask debate to get more heated, some business owners said they wanted to stay as neutral as possible.

"It's like poking a bear right now," said Darcy Bloom, who co-owns Made With Love right along the main Dells strip. "I don't want to be the person to poke the bear."

She posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon saying the business will assume anyone without a mask has a valid reason for it.

Bloom says many people have legitimate reasons, and she doesn't feel comfortable questioning that -- or sparking a confrontation over masks.

"It's not in my job description to be the health department or the police department." she said. "We understand why some people can't wear them -- and that's the big point."

Health officials say they hope everyone who can wear a mask does -- and anyone who doesn't want to understands how important it is.

"If we can all step up and do our part as business owners, as individual residents, as members of the human race, we can actually have an impact on this," said Sauk County Health Officer Tim Lawther.

Lawther said he'll be meeting with law enforcement from around the county Friday morning to begin developing a mandate enforcement plan.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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