Walmart signMonday’s Plymouth Board of Public Works and Safety meeting took a different turn when Jason Haines, the general manager of the Plymouth Walmart zoomed into the meeting.

The manager said he received a verbal warning on Monday from the Marshall County Health Department saying that the store was in violation of the county’s mask mandate. He said people called in complaints to the Health Department saying that people were shopping in the store and not wearing a face mask.

Haines said he had not heard anything about the mask mandate until the County Health Nurse Lisa Letsinger and Dean Schmidlapp the County Environmental Health Specialist – Food Division visited Walmart on Monday and investigated the complaints.  The manager said he got on the mayor’s facebook page and that was the first he’d seen the mandate.  He explained that he hadn’t received anything about the mandate in person or the mail and he hadn’t seen a press release on the issue.

The Walmart manager said, “People come in and we also have a mask mandate and we ask them to wear a mask and if they refuse to do so we let them shop.”  He continues to say, “And I can’t do that anymore according to the mandate.  I have to ask for maybe a prescription from a doctor if they say they have a medical condition, which to my knowledge violates HIPPA.”  He said the local police won’t respond if we tell them someone won’t wear their mask.

Mr. Haines said, “I’ve had several instances already today and we just instituted it at 2 o’clock today after reading the mandate on your facebook page Mayor.”   Haines said that was the first time he had seen the ordinance.

Mayor Senter explained that the mask mandate is a county mandate that includes all the jurisdictions in the county and it is from the governor’s mandate that was put out earlier this month.

The Walmart manager was concerned about the possibility of getting fines for not adhering to the new mask mandate that went into effect on Friday.   Haines said, “I have people come in and we offer the mandate to them and literally and I quote, ‘you take that mandate and shove it up your ass,’ and they walk out.”

The manager went on to say, “We have police at my building right now because they want to fist-fight my managers and my associates for a mask and I don’t know what to do.”

The City Attorney, Sean Surrisi explained that the mask mandate is a county ordinance implemented by the County Commissioners and the city just shared the information on their facebook page to communicate out the new information.

Haines said he called the Marshall County Health Department and all he could do was leave a message on their voice mail.  He said, “There’s no one to speak to but as a business in Marshall County how does one receive this information besides seeing it on facebook or getting a warning from the health department that you have not complied which is what we had today.”

The city attorney, Sean Surrisi said, “Amidst this global pandemic everyone is trying their level best to communicate.  It’s unfortunate that the first you heard about it was through a warning.  The ordinance does talk about taking incremental steps, the first being a verbal communication and we regret that was the first you’ve heard about it.  I do feel the majority of our business community is attune to the local media.  The chamber of commerce has shared this.  It would be quite a task for us to go to each and every business within the city to communicate this directly.”

The Walmart manager said, “I think that’s what we deserve, is some communication other than social media.”  He said their company has many protocols in place and they test their associates everyday when they come in.  We take their temp and they take a health check and my associates wear a mask.   Haines went on to say, “I have a customer that comes in and they don’t want to wear a mask, we offer them a mask.  If they refuse they’re allowed to shop, and now I’m assuming they’re not but I don’t know.”

Haines was frustrated that he had no warning and said he is concerned about the pandemic saying, “I know other business owners and they all share the same frustration.  I’ve never been a part of one of your meetings ever, not once until today.  My parents have had COVID, my daughter had COVID, my grandma died of COVID.  I get the circumstance that we are in.”

Mayor Senter and the City Attorney, Sean Surrisi agreed to meet with Jason Haines the Walmart General Manager on Tuesday.

Walmart did implement the mask mandate Monday afternoon requiring shoppers to wear a mask or they will be asked to leave the store.