On Friday President Donald Trump announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

The next morning, Dave’s Ace, 430 S. John Paul Road, sold its entire inventory of about 500 masks. “Before the mad rush,” store owner Dave Warren said he had ordered more. That was April 2 and he’s hoping to get them by the end of this week.

“With everything going on,” he emphasized, “that is not a promise.”

Warren said he’s fortunate he has a friend who owns a factory in Mexico that started making the masks March 12.

These are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. According to the CDC, those critical supplies must be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC on its website recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms.

On its website, the CDC states: “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (asymptomatic) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.”

Employees at Dave’s Ace have been given a cloth mask. Warren said, “At this point it is entirely their choice whether to wear it or not.”

Warren himself has been wearing a mask, which he said is fairly comfortable. Offering a review on Facebook, he noted wearing a mask makes it harder to be heard when speaking and to take really deep breaths quickly when working hard or moving fast.

Dave’s Ace employees continue to practice social distancing. They have bright green T-shirts that say: “We aren’t being rude. We’re practicing Social Distancing and ask you to do the same.”

Warren said he still encounters people who don’t care about keeping a 6-foot distance and sometimes people forget.

To remind them, he’s placed bright orange Xs on the floor to illustrate how far apart people should stand in the checkout lanes. He’s put arrows on the floor to help with traffic flow and to eliminate congestion in the 4-foot-wide aisles.

Cashiers are behind Plexiglas panels and flexible vinyl, which allows them to scan larger items.

In parking lot near the front doors, there are bright pink numbers 6 feet apart. On Saturday Dave’s Ace began metering customers, which means only so many are allowed in the store at a time.

While Warren said he thought he would never complain about too many customers, he said there reaches a point where it’s not possible to maintain 6-foot social distancing. At that point, people are asked to wait outside in the staging area. When one person leaves the store, another can enter.

On Saturday he found the busiest times were 10:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m. The maximum number of customers waiting outside the store was 10 and the longest wait time was 10 minutes.

Other changes include closing the “Dollar Section” in part Warren said because it encourages looking around instead of getting in and getting essential items and getting out.

Reservations for rental items are also being “metered,” meaning at some particularly busy times, same-day rentals will stop being accepted. Warren said, “as we get further along in the season, additional changes to our rental policies may be implemented. Like everything else lately, it’s a moving target.”

As changes are being made, the phone continues to ring.

“We are getting a tremendous number of phone calls from folks looking for disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, rubbing alcohol, anti-bacterial cleaners, N-95 masks and hand sanitizers,” he said.

A phone greeting now tells customers which hard-to-find items (if any) the store has in stock. Customers also call requesting curbside or home delivery, which the store offers as long as payment is made with a credit or debit card.

And, customers are communicating by Facebook. Sometimes they have questions. Sometimes they offer encouragement.

“Thanks for the updates. Remember you were the ringmaster of the 1966-67 kindergarten circus. You can’t go wrong!”

Warren replied: “Thanks. That made me smile.”

Of course, he added, no one could tell because he was wearing a mask.

Starting Monday, store hours will be adjusted to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. That’s not because business is slowing, Warren said but because staff is.

“With fewer people working longer hours to provide essential services to the community, our staff simply needs a break,” he said. “Even though it’s not easily recognized, trying to be helpful from a distance of 6 feet, answering non-stop phone calls, sanitizing the store and still trying to find time to care for your own family is not an easy task for anyone.”

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