Various articles, letters, and posts on this website have expressed concern that the Rec Center signs have been changed from a big-print notice that “FACE MASKS ARE REQUIRED” to a big-print notice that “FACE MASKS ARE REQUESTED.”
When the former wording prevailed, you couldn’t get into a recreation center without a face mask. Now you apparently can, but what happens once you are inside? To a lot of people, including myself, this was somewhat unclear.
The new big-print policy is actually modified by small print on the sign and inside the Rec News that reads “If closer than 6 feet, mask required.”
In light of the resurgence of COVID-19, that is somewhat comforting — if it is not just a failure to update the signs and Recreation News to reflect the new “masks-requested” policy. So to clarify this, I exchanged emails with John Rohan, the Recreation Department director, who promptly responded to my questions. Here is a brief summary of what he said:
The Rec Center rooms are now physically set up to keep people at least 6 feet apart. Rec Center staff will, in fact, instruct anyone nearer than 6 feet to other people to put on a mask.
He feels that this new policy has been sufficiently communicated.
So, it is good news that the Recreation Department is making an effort to maintain social distancing and is requiring a mask if close to other people. I would have formulated a slightly different policy and communicated it more clearly. That is, I would have preferred large-print signs stating “MASKS ARE REQUIRED TO ENTER A REC CENTER. YOU MUST WEAR YOUR MASK IF CLOSER THAN 6 feet TO OTHER PEOPLE,” and I would have communicated that policy via the front page of the Recreation News.
Some posters on this site have stated that they will never wear a mask. They could create a problem if they show up at a recreation center without bringing a mask and then get closer than 6 feet to other people. We will see how the staff deals with that situation.
The bottom line, however, is that the new face-mask policy, if enforced, is actually much better than merely requesting a mask and doing nothing to require social distancing. In my view, the new policy could have been better formulated and communicated, but it is a fairly practical way of operating the recreation centers while reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Scott Fenstermaker is a resident of The Villages and frequent contributor to Villages-News.com.