WHITEHOUSE, Ohio (WTVG) - There have been over 51,000 COVID-19 cases in the Buckeye State and close to 3,000 deaths. And now, the national debate over wearing a mask comes to a head at a popular local business.
The owner at Whitehouse Inn says it is not a political decision, but rather one of health and safety.
"So many of them almost passed out, the exhaustion, and the fatigue with them that I saw with them doing what they were doing. I just wasn't working for me," says Tony Fronk of his employees.
Fronk owns The Whitehouse Inn. He says masks are a health risk for his employees who work on their feet in the heat.
Responsible Restart Ohio guidelines allow employees to not wear masks if it is a violation of a company's safety policy. So Fronk created a policy.
Fronk and his girlfriend, Marcy Jervis, insist that the decision has nothing to do with politics.
"I do feel like people are trying to make it political, and it's really unfortunate that they are because that's really unfair to him because he's never made it political," says Jervis.
Not everyone thinks it's a good idea. One former patron says she used to enjoy the restaurant, but now she won't go back. She's afraid of backlash, so we have agreed to keep her identity concealed.
"I feel like they are making a defiant statement, versus truly caring for their employees, their customers, and ultimately our community," says the former patron.
Much of the online feedback has been positive. One comment says, "I support your decision, Thanks for protecting your team."
But others still question the safety risk.
"Not one of us wants to have this pandemic. We don't want to wear masks. We don't want to have to social distance... I plan on living another 50 years, and so if I have to give up 8 months or a year of that, it's worth the other 49 years that I'm going to get out of it.," says the anonymous former patron.
The Whitehouse Inn customers can request that their server wear a mask while at their table.