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Masks catch on across ABQ

Jeff Harkins, left, and his friend Scott Bleck enjoy the shade in Old Town on Saturday afternoon. “We’re ready to get out,” Harkins said. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In most places around the city, the governor’s order partly reopening businesses and requiring face coverings in public appeared to be a success.

The majority of those seen out and about donned a mask of some sort, with some shop owners and shoppers in support of the policy. A few seemed upset by the policy and the shutdowns, in general.

One man stood in a line outside Total Wine in Uptown in a foil mask. He said it was a statement.

“The government is doing their tin foil hat on us,” he said. “They’re making fools of us, so I thought I would do the same thing.”

Some of the normally bustling retail areas, such as Nob Hill and Uptown, remained deserted as many businesses had seemingly chosen to stay closed. A few people dotted the sidewalks, but it wasn’t clear where they were going, with popular spots such as the Apple Store closed, with metal gates across their storefronts.

But a little more life was breathed into Old Town, where a trickle of people, and a few crowds, drifted to and from nearby shops. The majority of people had masks on, but some crowds walked the plaza mask-free as recent graduates held photo shoots and mask-clad bicycle cops patrolled the area.

“It’s been a total ghost town instead of Old Town,” Scott Bleck said, a bandanna over his face.

Bleck and his friend Jeff Harkins said they are happy to see people back in Old Town.

“Love it,” Harkins said of the partial reopening. “We’re ready to get out.”

The two men sat on a bench across from San Felipe de Neri Church, their custom cars parked a few feet away. The men, both essential workers, said the shutdowns hit them where it hurts – a shared passion for the slick paint jobs, powerful engines, and fanaticism for car shows and cruising culture.

“It’s our weekends; it’s what we do when we’re not working,” Harkins said. “We put a lot of money into them. Not to get to show them off is very frustrating.”

“We were all jonesin’,” Bleck said.

Both men think the shutdowns and mask policy were a little blown out of proportion. Bleck said he hopes it wasn’t a “political thing.”

Although he wears a mask, Harkins said he does it on account of other people’s perceptions – and the governor’s order – more than safety.

“I hate it, don’t understand it,” he said.

Shop owners appeared to be more supportive of the policy.

Prem Shahi, owner of Dragonfly in Old Town, says he supports the mask policy. He says he won’t enforce the order, but hopes people will comply while they’re in his shop.

Prem Shahi, owner of Dragonfly in Old Town, said he is 100% for the masks.

“This will prevent it a little more from spreading,” he said.

Shahi said he will not enforce the order but hopes others will wear masks in his clothing shop.

“In America – wearing a mask – people feel like they’re losing their rights,” he said. “I want to protect myself; I will wear it for sure.”

Shahi said the shutdown was hard on his business, which opened in 2015.

“We were worried,” he said.

Although Shahi is glad to be reopening, he said he doesn’t believe the virus is going away anytime soon.

“It’s going to take a while,” he said. “I don’t want to be negative about it.”

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