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Masks not rare, not universal at Lewisburg Farmers Market

Daily Item - 8/28/2020

Aug. 27--LEWISBURG -- Hundreds of customers strolled through the Lewisburg Farmers Market on Wednesday in search of local produce, proteins and other goods -- a scene not much different from the days before the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Some customers wore masks, some didn't; the same thing with the market's vendors. There was little in the way of social distancing as people browsed booths inside the market building and the dozens of tents outside of it.

All of the building's doors and windows were opened to allow greater ventilation and, anecdotally speaking, it appeared many customers were conscious to pull on masks as they entered -- certainly not all of them.

Those who came to shop made the choice to do so, mask or no mask.

"We conform with the requirements but welcome people of all opinions," market owner Gerald Stauffer said of mandates and recommendations for public safety.

"It's a very hard thing to police. Really, nobody wants to hear you have to wear a face mask when you walk into a building," market manager Joe Sharp said.

Union County found itself at the top of a list of all Pennsylvania counties gauging community spread in each of the past three weeks. Dozens of cases were attributed to the county's two federal prisons, largely Lewisburg, as well as a drug rehab facility -- something critics believe the state didn't weigh enough when Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine recommended county schools open for remote learning only.

This week, new case counts have slowed. There have been 15 new cases attributed to Union County beginning Aug. 21, according to Department of Health data. Compare that to the 68 new cases in the seven-day period prior and the 70 new cases in the week prior to that.

Sharp said he maintains a waitlist of vendors seeking to get an open space at the popular market. No vendors, he said, withdrew as a result of pandemic policies.

Some customers raised concerns about masking and distancing, Stauffer said.

"I would say we've had more people express the thankfulness of being able to continue to come out to the place they love," Stauffer said.

Ben Romig of Mifflinburg kept a mask at the ready for when he walked into the market building. He kept it off as he sat at a picnic table outside. Romig said he has trouble breathing when wearing a face covering but chooses to wear one in confined spaces when he can't maintain social distance.

"I really don't want to put anybody down for doing whatever they can to try and protect people. This is all new to us. There's politics involved and things like that. I still think, no matter what, everyone's trying to do the best they can to get through this," Romig said.

Linda Platzer and her husband, Robert, drove to the market from Lykens. Linda Platzer wore a mask but said she wasn't nervous being around those who didn't.

"I'm 75 and I have a compromised immune system. I think everyone should have one on," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people wear masks in public settings and when in the company of those they don't live with and can't maintain 6 feet of social distance. Masks are to be worn over the nose and mouth and when handled, touched on the ties or loops and not the mask itself. Hands should be sanitized before putting a mask on or removing one, the CDC states.

"Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings," according to

Wilford Haupt carried boxes of vegetables beneath a tent where he sold goods from his family farm, Haupt Produce of Irish Valley in Northumberland County. He said he and his workers used to wear masks at the market. When the temperature climbed in the summer, Haupt said it became too restrictive for breathing.

"We made up our minds it was going to be too hot to try to wear a mask. We wouldn't be able to function," Haupt said, adding that he often witnesses people not wearing or handling masks properly.

"In the last two weeks, more customers are wearing them than they were because there's more incidences of it here," Haupt said.

Lauren Aikey of Nomad Distilling, Williamsport, set up beneath a tent outside the market where she sold the distillery's flavored moonshines, blackberry bramble, whiskeys and bourbons. She wore a face mask and said she was just following the rules.

The pandemic restricted Nomad's brick-and-mortar operation and canceled the many festivals where the distillery set up.

"In order to survive as a business, markets were our next thing to try," Aikey said. "Lewisburg Market seems to be a very popular one."


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