Seeking advice: Some workers in my house weren’t wearing masks, but I was scared to say anything. What should I do next time?

plumber not wearing mask
Photo via Yu Morita/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

The coronavirus vaccine has forced us to adapt to a new normal. One day, if people take precautions and wear their masks and get the vaccine when it’s available, perhaps the new normal will revert back to the way things used to be.

Until then, you might have questions about how you’re supposed to live your life in this new world. Hopefully, we can give you the answers.

So, as we do our best Dear Abby and/or Ask Ann Landers impression, let’s answer the query that’s most on your mind.

Q: Thanks to the Texas winter storms that knocked my power out for several days and then froze and burst one of my water pipes, I had plumbers and drywall people inside my house this week. Most everybody wore a mask without me having to ask. But two of the drywall people entered my house maskless and seemed intent on not wearing one at all. My spouse and I are fully vaccinated, but my kids, who were in the living room doing virtual learning, are obviously not.

Should I have asked those workers to put on a mask? You read all these news stories about people getting into physical fights in public over mask usage, and I didn’t really want a confrontation or for those workers to walk off the job in protest. The drywall people are coming back next week, and I imagine they won’t be wearing masks then either. Should I say something then? 

A: Considering how much we know about mask-wearing and how it prevents the spread of the coronavirus, it always feels a little striking when people act like there’s not a pandemic happening around them and they don’t wear a mask in social situations. It happened to me in a restaurant the other day, where I was the only person with a face covering (even the employees had gone maskless), and it’s happened a few times in rural gas stations. 

In this case, yes, you should absolutely ask them to wear a mask. It’s your house, after all. And you have no idea how many customers these workers see on a weekly basis. If you’re vaccinated already, the risk of you catching the virus from them is awfully slim. But if you feel uncomfortable, ask them politely to cover their mouth and nose, especially if your children who can’t yet get vaccinated are nearby. 

If they get so mad that they walk out of the house, c’est la vie. There are always more workers out there you can hire, people who will treat you and your family with respect. But here’s probably what will happen. If you ask them nicely, the workers will probably dig into their pockets and pull out a mask. Yeah, maybe they’ll complain to each other or talk about you behind your back. But in reality, who cares? You’re keeping you and your family safe. Sometimes, that takes a little bit of courage. 

If you missed our last Dear Abby offering, we answered a question about whether you can play poker with your buddies without wearing a mask.

Written by Josh Katzowitz