In Lake George, mask-wearing is hit or miss among visitors

About half of tourists who are visiting Lake George are not wearing masks on crowded sidewalks, according to several shop owners along Canada Street. (Provided photo — Chad Arnold / The Post-Star)

LAKE GEORGE — It’s been a stressful summer for Karen Beshara.

Not only has the coronavirus shortened the season for her novelty T-shirt shop on the corner of Canada Street and Beach Road, but crowded sidewalks full of maskless tourists have her considering closing the store earlier than usual.

“We usually stay until Columbus Day, especially weekends, but the plan at the moment is probably around Labor Day to close,” Beshara, who owns Lake George Novelty Co., said.

Beshara said she’s dealt with dozens of customers this summer who simply refuse to wear a mask when entering her store. Some have tried to cough in her face, while others have cursed at her and stormed out.

Others, she said, have made threats or insisted that the coronavirus — which has killed over 160,000 people in the U.S. — is fake.

It’s an everyday occurrence, despite several neon poster boards taped to the front of the store notifying customers that masks are required, and that the policy is strictly enforced.

“There may be a handful of days, I can count them on one hand since we opened, we weren’t sworn at for asking someone to put a mask on,” Beshara said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, earlier this year, issued an executive order requiring anyone 2 and older to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose when an adequate social distance of at least 6 feet can’t be maintained to prevent the spread of the virus, which is transmitted by airborne droplets.

The order exempts those with medical conditions.

But local shop owners along Canada Street say not everyone is following the order.

Lake George has become a popular destination amid the pandemic, which has led to crowded sidewalks in the village, making it difficult for parties to maintain proper social distancing.

But only half the people are wearing masks, said Jason Fonda, an employee at Purse Party, a clothing shop on Canada Street just up the street from Beach Road.

“I’d say it’s a 50-50 mix with people wearing masks and not wearing masks,” he said.

Fonda said he thinks people may be misinterpreting the governor’s mandate, thinking it doesn’t apply to them simply because they are outside and not in a shop.

On Friday, sidewalks were crowded in the early afternoon. Most were wearing face coverings, but a many either had their masks tucked under their chin or in their hand as they walked past others.

A Post-Star reporter approached half-a-dozen maskless individuals, all of whom declined to comment on why they weren’t wearing face coverings.

Some simply would not comment, while others kept walking.

One man said he wasn’t bothering anyone and asked to be left alone.

Signs along Canada Street and Beach Road are posted throughout the village, and sanitizing stations, stocked with state-produced hand sanitizer, are scattered throughout.

“It doesn’t concern me so much. I think this thing is kind of being blown out of proportion by the media,” said Paul Briggs, a tourist from Massachusetts.

Briggs said he doesn’t disagree with Cuomo’s order, but takes his mask off whenever possible, so long as he’s not around people.

“I don’t wear it all the time on the sidewalk. I kind of maintain distance and if I don’t feel I’m maintaining distance, that’s when I put it on,” he said.

But the lack of masks has dampened the Lake George experience for some visitors, including Sharon and Jim Tribbitt.

The couple, who were sitting in the shade of Shepard Park, decided to visit the village on count of the nice weather, but said they were leaving because so many weren’t wearing masks.

“We’re thinking about leaving. We’ve been here about an hour … but it’s too crowded, it’s too close. There’s too many people not wearing masks,” Sharon said.

She said people simply don’t care enough to wear a mask.

“I don’t get it; I don’t understand why people don’t want to wear one,” Sharon said.

The couple was spotted walking to their car on West Brook Road about 40 minutes later.

Meanwhile, on Beach Road, staff at the Lake George Steamboat Co. said people not wearing masks has been a problem.

“There’s as many wearing them as not wearing them,” said Fred Russo, a parking attendant for the Steamboat Co.

The Steamboat Co. has a strict mask policy, Russo said. All visitors coming onto the property are required to wear masks, even if they’re just fishing off the pier.

“Some are following instructions, others cop an attitude and want to argue with you, but are subsequently told to either put it on or leave the property,” Russo said.

Back at Lake George Novelty Co., Beshara said it’s been a “difficult summer.”

“I would say the majority of our customers do not want to wear a mask, do not agree with wearing a mask and most will try to walk in with the mask below their nose,” she said.

Beshara said she’s reduced the store’s hours because of all the issues, and believes many of the problems stem from a combination of political views and people simply refusing to follow the rules.

“They don’t want to wear it, and in their head, they’re not affecting other people,” she said.

For Beshara, the hassle –and the risk — is simply not worth staying open.

“When we feel like it’s too much, we close,” she said. “If we feel it’s totally not safe for us to be here, then we’re ready to close for the season.”


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