Jennifer Brooks
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The customer is always right.

Unless the customer is the lady over there, urinating on the floor of a Verizon store because somebody asked her to put on a mask.

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Or the customer who flashed his gun in a barbecue joint when the owner asked him to mask up.

Or the one who cut a hole in the middle of her mask before she went shopping because, and I quote, it “makes it easier to breathe.”

Starting Saturday in Minnesota, the customer is only right if the customer is wearing a mask.

Finally. Entire nations — and half of this one — are asking their citizens to help stop the spread of a deadly virus. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Stay home if you’re sick. And before you set foot inside a public building, strap on a mask.

If you think masks are uncomfortable or they make conversation difficult or they clash with most outfits, try wearing one outside in a summer heat wave, gloved up, wrapped in a stifling plastic gown and face shield, swabbing an endless line of noses and throats at one of the state’s drive-through COVID-19 testing sites.

Try wearing a mask for a 10-hour shift at the grocery store while customers yell at you for asking them to wear a mask for 10 minutes.

We’ve been breathing all over our essential workers for months now. Dozens of grocery store workers have caught the virus in Minnesota, according to Matt Utecht, president of United Food and Commercial Workers International 663. Nationwide, the pandemic has killed almost 100 grocery workers and sickened at least 12,000.

Workers are risking their health to keep us fed, clothed and entertained. If you have a problem with the mask mandate, don’t take it out on them.

“The governor’s news will be welcome news to our members who are out on the front lines,” Utecht said. “They do wear masks for eight and 10 hours on their shifts and it kind of defeats the purpose when the store’s packed full of customers and no one’s wearing a mask.”

Minnesota can do better. Retreating behind protective layers of fabric is one of our superpowers.

That’s what the mask mandate is. Layering up to weather the storm.

If you’re lucky enough to live in a county with only one or two confirmed cases of COVID-19, that’s wonderful. Please wear a mask to make sure it stays that way.

If you’re young and healthy and confident you have nothing to fear from a tiny virus, how nice for you. Mask up to protect the rest of us. Caring whether your neighbor lives or dies is Minnesota’s other superpower.

Maybe there will be protests outside the governor’s residence again once the mask mandate goes into effect. But it’s hard to argue that this is a radical policy leap when the Republican governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio got around to mandating masks before we did.

This is Minnesota. We don’t even like to make eye contact. Why should we make it easy for a killer virus to make contact with us?

The last word on this goes to Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, who lost her brother to COVID-19.

“I know that every death we can prevent is another family who does not have to feel this kind of grief,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “Masking up helps us keep businesses open, socialize safely and embrace a new normal. But most importantly, it will save lives.