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Could Mask Mandates Drive Business To Surrounding Counties Who Don't Have One?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Weeks after California ditched masks, they've made a comeback in two Sacramento-area counties. But with the mask-wearing whiplash, some say they won't put them back on and it could put some businesses in a financial bind.

In Sacramento and Yolo counties, many businesses are worried that enforcing the mandate may drive much-needed customers away. Other businesses have been told they're being sought out because they are enforcing the rules.

Signs posted outside the Devil May Care ice cream shop on K Street say if you want a scoop, you'll need to mask up. Gerine Williams, the business operator, said the shop is enforcing the rules and is concerned about any future restrictions.

"With these new variants going around," Williams said. "We're not sure what's going to be next."

She and many others are sticking to the mandate and said most customers comply—even those like Ernie Espinoza, who's not a fan of the mandate.

"I'd rather not, but if I want things like ice cream, then you know, you put it on," he said. Other customers have walked out the door.

"It's a scoop of ice cream. It's supposed to be a happy experience," Williams said. "It should not be stressful."

Economic experts say mandates in Sacramento and Yolo counties could mean small businesses take a hit as the Delta variant spreads. Many people may choose to stay home all together to avoid catching COVID. Others, however, simply may not want to wear a mask again.

"People may just shift their business someplace else," said Sanjay Varshney, a Sacramento State finance professor. He said restaurants and the hospitality industry may see the biggest impacts "because they rely so heavily on people being indoors for business."

Varshney said it's likely people who don't want to mask up may take their business to places like El Dorado and Placer County—areas that don't have face-covering rules of their own. For them, a few miles makes all the difference.

"It's the choice of the person, if you want to wear a mask then wear it—but if you don't, you don't," said Brian, who lives in Roseville.

As Roseville's Goose Port Public House, owner Al Santos said he hasn't seen a change in business yet, but during the last surge, business poured in when Placer saw fewer restrictions.

"We had a lot of Sac County come up because we were open, and that really helped our business," Santos said.

Meanwhile, back in Sacramento, Williams said she's fine losing out on some customers if it means the ones stopping in are playing it safe.

"In the end of it, our safety is number one," Williams said.

Varshney said in times like this, politics come into play, and said he won't be surprised if nearby conservative areas see an uptick in business for not implementing mandates of their own.

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