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Megan Franklin knows that backlash and criticism could come along with her decision to ask people to continue wearing masks inside her Winkler business, but she insists she is only doing what she thinks is best for the health of her staff and clients, and her community.

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“We still have a responsibility as a business to keep our community safe, and that is the only goal here,” Franklin, the owner of the Winkler-based Frank + Olive beauty salon and wellness studio said.

“At the end of the day this entire pandemic has been politicized, when in reality it’s not a political issue, it’s a public health issue.”

The province will remove all remaining COVID-19 health orders on Tuesday in Manitoba, including the requirement that people wear masks inside indoor public places.

But Franklin, whose business offers services like makeup, massage, waxing, and a range of other salon and beauty services, said she will continue to ask anyone that walks into her business to put on a mask.

And in the southeastern Manitoba city of Winkler where COVID-19 vaccination rates remain low, there has been a loud and vocal group of residents pushing back against public health orders, and several anti-health order rallies and events have even been hosted in the community in the last year.

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Franklin said she knows that her decision could now alienate some in Winkler and make her business a target for criticism and harassment, but despite that she said she has no doubt in her mind that she has made the right decision about masks.

“I don’t feel I’m testing people’s loyalty, I’m testing their respect,” she said. “If you can’t walk into a business for 30 minutes and have a mask on when it’s asked of you, I am happy to have you go somewhere else.

“I am not going to sacrifice my mental health and my safety in my own space.”

Franklin also said she knows that some Winkler businesses have been subject to online criticism, bullying and harassment for enforcing public health orders, but she said she has no concerns about what she may hear from people online.

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“There are always going to be people that have something to say online, I don’t dwell on it,” Franklin said. “The Internet is a vicious place and you can take what you want from it, but most of the people who criticize me online have never met me and know nothing about me.

“I will continue to run by business my way and do my thing.”

And according to Franklin, it is also the nature of her business and the services offered in her studio that makes it important to continue asking clients to cover their faces.

“I do eyebrows most of the day, I am sitting right in front of people’s faces and breathing next to their faces,” she said. “And our industry is one that cares for people and protects people from different viruses and funguses, so protecting people from COVID is no different.”

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And although she plans to continue asking clients to wear masks, Franklin said she wishes the province would have kept doing more to enforce public health mandates, and not leave those responsibilities at the feet of individual business owners starting on Tuesday.

“I mean I do wish the province would have continued to fight for people’s health, because it does feel a lot like we have all been thrown to the wolves,” Franklin said.

“It would have been nice to see a few measures kept in place rather than just opening everything up all at once, but I have made my decision and I will do what I know is right for my business because I just want people to be healthy and safe.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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