A sign in the entrance of Ketchikan’s Safeway informs customers of the store’s mandatory mask policy that went into effect Tuesday. Residents gave the policy mixed reviews in interviews with KRBD. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Two national retailers with stores in Ketchikan — Walmart and Safeway — started requiring customers to wear masks this week. KRBD sent a reporter to skulk around parking lots to see how residents are responding.


Outside Ketchikan’s Safeway, residents’ opinions on the supermarket’s new mask policy are mixed.

“With the amount of cases we really don’t have, it seems a bit ridiculous, almost like they’re trying to muzzle us off or something,” said Ed Plute. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“This works out like immunizations. People choose not to immunize and jeopardize other people’s lives,” Margo Pelkey said. “If you choose not to wear a mask, you jeopardize other people.”

“Well, you know, it’s their business, so I suppose they can. You know, you can’t go in without shoes on in some places,” said Gary Kuharich on his way into Safeway, adding, “Am I going to be able to go in there and get a sandwich?”

Kuharich was not wearing a mask, but he did get his sandwich.

“They didn’t stop me,” he said on his way out. He said he kept to himself, got his sandwich and left. No one approached him to tell him he’d violated the store’s mask policy, Kuharich said.

A few miles up Tongass Highway, Walmart greeter Manuela Stack was tasked with enforcing the new rule.

“99.9% of these people here in Ketchikan, they’re awesome. They respect it, they do it. We have once in a while some of them, they don’t, but otherwise, doing really good,” Stack told KRBD.

Outside the store, Walmart’s mask requirement also got mixed reviews from Ketchikan residents.

“I mean, I think that it’s cool if everyone’s wearing a mask just because masks only protect you if everyone wears them. So now that they’re forcing everyone to wear them, I think it’s pretty cool,” said Tallyn Bello.

“Well, I have COPD, so it’s a bit of a hassle, but you do what you’ve got to do to contain the pandemic,” said Rick Morgan.

“I think it’s a bunch of crap, is what I think,” said Susan Dotson, “especially for me — I’ve got congestive heart failure, I’m in there 10 minutes, my oxygen level will drop to 85, and I’ll get dizzy, and one of these days, I’m going to pass out.”

“I think that if we have to start wearing them whenever there is any kind of disease around, I’m not sure that it will really do us good. I think that things that we have experienced, looking historically, there really are some repercussions, we want to be careful,” said Yvonne Hauan. “But I do feel like that it’s kind of an innate thing to have those freedoms to make those choices.”

“I think it’s a good idea to keep our little community safe for everybody, and we all have to respect other people’s requests as well,” said Christine Delacruz.