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Midlanders Take To Social Media Track Businesses Taking Coronavirus Precautions

By Mitch Borden

Following the City of Midland's continued refusal to instate or enforce a mask mandate or coronavirus restrictions, Heather Bredimus formed the Facebook group Masks in Midland to help direct locals to businesses taking coronavirus precautions.

Now, in less than a month, the group has about 1,400 members and counting. Marfa Public Radio's Permian Basin reporter Mitch Borden talked to Bredimus about her group and how her community is responding to the pandemic.

Below is an edited transcript of the conversation between MPR's Mitch Borden and Heather Bredimus. To listen to their extended conversation, click the audio player above.

Mitch Borden: For those who aren't familiar with Masks in Midland, could you explain what the group is and how it got started?

Heather Bredimus: Sure. We have a group on Facebook. It's a place where we support businesses that are enforcing a mask mandate, or other safety protocols. And we hope to encourage other businesses that aren't so that we can support them as well.

MB: What motivated you to create this Facebook group?

HB: My husband and I were out one night, trying to go on a date. And we went to a restaurant here [in Midland] and absolutely none of the wait staff, or the cooks, were wearing masks, we said, No, thank you. And we left and we tried to go find another restaurant, same situation.

We drove all around town, looking for someplace to go. And we finally ended up [at a restaurant], which had a sign on the outside door, the front door, a sign at the hostess, everyone was wearing masks there, they spaced out tables, and it was a big relief.

So that night, I texted a picture to my friends of the pictures that I had taken up the signs, and recommend to the restaurant to everyone, if you know they wanted to go out and then I thought, you know, we should all do this. We should all take pictures of places where we feel safe so that we all know where to go.

MB: Are you seeing a lot of people wear masks in Midland and Odessa right now?

HB: When I go to HEB, it's 50/50, who's wearing masks and who isn't. It makes me really uncomfortable.

MB: What has been the reaction to Masks in Midland as a Facebook group, you guys have over 1000 members now?

HB: It was a lot of people expressing thanks.

They were grateful that a group like this existed because they've been wondering where to go and also a feeling of camaraderie. They don't feel alone anymore. You know, the people who are anti-mask, they're very loud. For a lot of us, we don't like confrontation. So we're not speaking up and you kind of feel alone, but I think this group makes them feel like there's other people out there like them that are looking for the same thing.

MB: When you see more signs up at the mall and more signs going up around town. Do you feel like that's a direct result of Masks in Midland?

HB: Absolutely. I mean, this is an example of how capitalism and the free market works.

MB: I'm curious because that's also a line we've heard from leaders in Midland. Midland's Mayor Patrick Payton and Midland County Judge Terry Johnson [have] both resisted instating or enforcing coronavirus restrictions, but they've said the community has to rely on citizens taking the responsibility to slow the spread of the coronavirus and keep themselves safe.

Do you think Masks in Midland proves their point?

HB: Right. I mean, this group would have not been created if the city council had enforced a mask mandate. And this does illustrate that community members can take charge of where they spend their money and influence how businesses choose to handle safety protocols.

Yes, it illustrates that. However, I still want a mask mandate. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that we are ten months in [to the pandemic] and our city council has not done anything actionable. Not one thing.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.