Local businesses crack down on mask mandate

San Juan Island businesses are cracking down on the mask mandate, which was reinstated on Aug. 13. Those who choose not to comply risk being banned indefinitely.

Matt and Maureen Markinovich were two of the people banned after entering Marketplace maskless on Sept. 27.

“If I didn’t feel like I was doing this for other people, then I wouldn’t have done it,” Maureen Marinkovich said, adding that she thinks many who disagree with the mandate are afraid to speak out about it.

The Marinkoviches weren’t always anti-mask.

“In the beginning, I wore my mask everywhere,” said Matt Marinkovich.

“But then we didn’t see any hearses leaving the island,” Maureen Marinkovich added. “We saw all these weird vaccine injuries pop up instead.”

On Sept. 28, San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs released a press release on the matter.

“Under no circumstances should business owners and their hardworking employees be harassed, made to feel unsafe or in any other way be made uncomfortable for following current COVID-19 guidelines or individual store policies,” Krebs wrote. “We have long abided by no shirt, no shoes, no service. Our new norm is now no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.”

Krebs noted his office will continue to respond to calls of harassment from businesses and “will trespass those individuals who choose not to follow the mandate or who threaten and intimidate patrons and employees” at the business’ request.

“… As a United States Marine veteran, I served to uphold the freedoms and rights of our country, freedoms and rights that allow for more than one point of view whether it is the same as mine or not. But, a point of view does not justify breaking laws,” Krebs wrote. “I implore that whatever your feelings are about the COVID-19 mandates, that you respect one another, allow for individual opinion, peaceable protest, and the right to make your own decisions, without threats or intimidation on either side, as we wait for our country to return to normal.”

Islander Lindsey Holloway said she was angered when she heard of maskless shoppers trespassing into the San Juan Island Brewing Co., the Marketplace and Kings Market. All three businesses are operated by Valmark, which is owned by long-time San Juan Islander Verne Howard.

Valmark businesses continue to follow the county’s mask mandate. After the protest, Marketplace released an announcement via Facebook that stated, “It truly pains us to see our community so divided and we really hope that everyone can bear with this for a little longer.”

“It’s one thing to protest at the courthouse — which is certainly a person’s first amendment right to do that — but when you break the law by going into a marketplace, where people shop expecting to find a safe environment where you expose the employees to potential virus,” Holloway said. “And you know, that’s just that’s just beyond the first amendment right of any of any group of individuals.”

Holloway added that while she stands up for the mask mandate, she has gotten some backlash.

“I’m standing up for our local businesses, and our community,” Holloway said. “And I think that’s community service.”

The Marinkoviches’ protest resulted in the cancellation of their Fish for Teeth Fish Taco fundraiser, as they were no longer allowed to use the parking lot it was supposed to take place on. The couple has held the fundraiser numerous times for 14 years, helping to pay for low-income individuals’ and families’ dental needs.

“I believe the government is responsible for the decline of a very wonderful, perfectly effective private nonprofit organization. Because by pushing a mandate on their community members, they must’ve known at some point it would be divisive,” Maureen Marinovich said. “It takes the wind out of your sails when you’ve done something for free. For your community, for your town, for so long. It’s a labor of love, not a business model. For it to be shut down is a complete and utter disrespect of the community.”

Along with Fish for Teeth, the Marinkoviches were founding members of the San Juan Island Food Cooperative. Matt Marinkovich, who had been a longstanding intermittent member of the board, resigned when talk of vaccine mandates for employees came up.

Maureen Marinkovich was a singer for the San Juan Singers, which she said she had to leave due to her unvaccinated status.

The vaccine mandates are the Marinkoviches’ main COVID concern, as they believe the vaccines cause more harm than good.

“If you can get a society to accept the mask mandate, then you can get them to accept the vaccine mandate,” Matt Marinkovich said. “It happens incrementally. Everybody’s wearing their mask, everyone is falling in line and it is very concerning to me. Vaccine mandates are very concerning to me. Where do you start? It’s insane.”

It is the fear of unsafe vaccines that is causing most of the divide in the community. While most medical professionals support the vaccine, there is also a divide amongst doctors and nurses as to whether or not it is safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. More than half of the people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. The CDC recommends getting a vaccine as soon as possible. Since Dec. 14, 2020, over 390 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the United States. The website also states that while severe reactions can occur, such as anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, they are very rare.

Jean Staben, a former Peace Health on San Juan Island nurse, left her position with the hospital due to the state’s healthcare COVID mandate. She reported seeing “strange health incidents” not long after patients were vaccinated. When noticing these side effects, she said she was often dismissed if she spectated them as being possible vaccine injuries.

“This lady came in, not long after she had been vaccinated, and her lymph nodes were the size of my fist. It took me going to three different physicians before we were finally able to report it to VAERS,” she said, fearing that these injuries are being underreported. “Is this profit motive? Who’s driving this bus?”

VAERS, or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, is a self-reporting service offered by the federal government. Anyone can submit reported vaccine injuries to VAERS and complaints are rarely verified.

“For those wishing to further express their displeasure about COVID-19 mandates, the appropriate avenue would be to contact the county health director Frank James, M.D., the San Juan County Council members, and Gov. Jay Inslee,” Krebs wrote. “These individuals have the ability to effectuate change in the mandates, not local businesses or their employees.”

Signs posted outside of the Marketplace entrance
Photo by Sienna Boucher
Sign posted outside of the Marketplace entrance
Photo by Sienna Boucher