Survey asks ‘do you or don’t you mask up in public?’

Six months ago, pre COVID-19, no one thought of wearing a face mask. Even as awareness of the coronavirus began to spread, wearing one was a subject of debate. But now, covering one’s face as a way of preventing the spread is simply a matter of course. The small piece of cloth has come a new, albeit divisive, issue.

As the Texas economy has begun to “open,” residents must make the decision for themselves, as Gov. Greg Abbott declined to make mask wearing mandatory. Some routinely don a mask, others only for certain outings. And like individuals, businesses have the decision to make – choosing a point on a continuum between “no mask, no service” and discouraging the use of masks altogether. 

But just who is choosing what? To give a sense of direction, and in one of its many steps toward getting a better consensus, the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce made a quick six-question survey gauging residents’ thoughts on masks in public. 

“The survey is a snapshot of time,” said J.R. Gonzales, executive director of the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce and creator of the survey. “It’s kind of an attitudinal shot of how people look at it in that point in time. If this survey is conducted again in four weeks, we might see different responses.” 

The overall sense, Gonzales said, is that Buda residents have reservations about leaving the house without a face cover or personal protective equipment (PPE). As a fair warning, this conclusion is very simplified and the results may continuously change. 

Survey questions were open for less than 72 hours and gathered 450 responses. It was posted on a Facebook page called Buda Takeout and Delivery Services and a few other online sources, but responses came mainly through the Facebook page. 

Gonzales said he realized where some of the response biases may lie – for example, 80 percent of the page followers are women and his guess is about 75 percent of the survey takers were women. In hindsight, Gonzales would like to add a gender and age question in the next survey. 

The first question in the survey asks, “do you wear a face mask or PPE when you go out in public?” To which about 74 percent said yes, 15 percent said sometimes, and 10 percent said no. 

There were more specific questions in the survey which could potentially guide businesses in their reopening models. Some were directed at the comfort level in patronizing restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms and more. 

Ultimately, these questions and answers are a tool that Buda businesses can utilize if they choose to, so they can analyze customer comfort levels. Buda Area Chamber of Commerce did not post the results on social media and only passe it on to the businesses who asked about it and to chamber members. 

“With some businesses, it reinforces what they’re doing,” Gonzales said, “and some are saying ‘okay that’s fine,’ and feel those taking the survey might not be their customer base. Our intent is not to change people’s behavior, but to gauge what their behavior is now.” 

Consumer behaviors will continue to change over time, so the Chamber of Commerce plans on putting out more surveys while learning from this survey’s shortcomings, Gonzales said. 

“Plan on seeing more surveys in the future,” he said in a whimsical tone, knowing what may come but not ready to divulge it. “Because it will be a tool to keep a pulse on the business community and educate them on what the public is thinking.” 

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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