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Mask-wearing on the rise by those visiting downtown York to eat, shop, attend court

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

In an area of Pennsylvania where donning masks to inhibit the spread of coronavirus has become a divisive political issue about what constitutes personal freedom, mask-wearing by visitors to downtown York appears to be on the rise.

Most visitors wore masks in York City's Central Market House on Thursday, except for those actively eating, although there were a few people who didn't comply. They mostly declined to speak with a reporter about their reasons.

Two business owners at Market said they don't understand why people are so opposed to the idea.

"Does it suck for you? Yeah. It sucks for everybody," Tim Spangler Sr. said. "Let's just be together on this."

Spangler, who owns and runs Mezzogiorno Italian-cuisine restaurant, expressed frustration at people who deliberately choose not to wear masks when ordering.

He even keeps a stash of disposable masks at the ready to hand out to customers who forgot to bring theirs.

Making it work: "You know why I'm wearing a mask? Because I care about you," he said. "I hate these masks, but I wear them. I'm making it work."

Mezzogiorno owner Tim Spangler Sr. shows a bag of masks which he offers to customers who aren't equipped, at his Central Market restaurant Thursday, July 9, 2020. He said most customers will wear the supplied masks. 
Bill Kalina photo

Spangler said the heat in Mezzogiorno's kitchen can reach 140 degrees, but that's OK.

"We're all in this together," he said. "Let's just show a little bit of consideration for others, that's all."

Spangler and fellow Market vendor Tobi Bingaman, owner of TK's Nut & Candy Shoppe, said most customers have been reasonable about following Gov. Tom Wolf's order that masks must be worn in public areas where social distancing isn't possible.

"No one's ever given me any difficulty," Bingaman said.

She said when customers walk into her store with uncovered faces, she asks, "Oh, did you forget your mask?" Most customers run back to their cars to retrieve them, she said.

T.K's Nuts and Candy owner Tobi Bingaman wears a mask while waiting on a customer at the Central Market shop Thursday, July 9, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

Act of kindness: "It's a random act of kindness in a piece of fabric," Bingaman said. "It's very simple."

Marty Ness of Red Lion brought his mask to Market on Thursday, but he forgot to put it on as he took 6-month-old grandson Rowan on a tour of vendors' stands. That was merely a mistake, he indicated.

Central Family Restaurant owner Karl Spangler — no relation to Mezzogiorno's Tim Spangler — said that since the state ordered mask-wearing, he's seen more of his customers sporting them.

"I think for the most part people are wearing them," he said. "It's a nuisance but we're dealing with it. It's the only thing we can do. We all have our angry days."

Marty Ness of Red Lion talks with a shop owner while "showing market" to his grandson Rowan, 6-months, after dining at Central Market Thursday, July 9, 2020. A mask-wearing supporter, he admitted he should have a mask on, but left it at his table for the walk with Rowan. Bill Kalina photo

Social-distancing requirements have cut in half the number of tables that can be filled at Central Family, according to Karl Spangler — from 25 tables and booths down to 11 or 12.

Bingaman and Tim Spangler both said they're struggling because the number of visitors to Market is down. Tim Spangler said he's had his two adult sons carry tables and chairs outside in an effort to make customers feel more at ease about eating out.

Judge weighs in: York County President Common Pleas Judge Joseph C. Adams told The York Dispatch that employees in the York County Judicial Center aren't required to wear masks if they are working in private areas — although it is encouraged.

But all employees dealing with the public must don masks.

York City Police Sgt. Rich Kehler wears a mask at Central Market Thursday, July 9, 2020. He said the department is following the governor's orders to wear them. Bill Kalina photo

"That was already the plan that was laid out" prior to Wolf's most recent mask order, the judge said. "Unfortunately, we needed some clarification. ... There was some confusion."

So Adams provided that clarification, he said, and it's this: Any judicial center employee in a public area of the center needs to wear a mask whether they are dealing with the public or not — unless he or she has a medical condition that affects their ability to do so.

The same goes for members of the public while in the judicial center, the president judge said.

"We're pretty much in tune with what the governor's guidelines are," he said.

Also, all employees must don masks when dealing with jurors, even in private areas, Adams said.

"It's a public pandemic and it's our obligation to make sure the public is safe, as well as our obligation to make sure our employees are safe," the judge said. "We have fared fairly well, compared to other counties."

Jessica Baker of Red Lion shops at T.K's Nuts and Candy while waiting for a food order at Central Market Thursday, July 9, 2020. She said she left her mask in the car while she was having a meal at Mezzogiorno in the market. Bill Kalina photo

The judicial center's two largest courtrooms — Nos. 7003 and 7004 — have been reconfigured to comply with social distancing, Adams said.

"Everything is six feet apart, and we've staggered jurors," he said.

Clear plastic panels have been added to the prosecution and defense tables in those two courtrooms to act as sneeze/cough guards, the judge said.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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