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Local Facebook group helps residents navigate COVID-19 concerns

“I got sick of going to stores in the area and people not wearing a mask –whether it be employees or customers,” St. Johns County resident Wendy Seth said.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Connecting community members and local businesses that are being extra careful during the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s what two St. Johns County women are setting out to do since there is no local mask mandate.

“We're vulnerable. We're both asthmatic, and my husband has acute asthma that turns into bronchitis and then pneumonia every single time,” Janine Garbacz, St. Johns County resident said.

Garbacz and her husband Mario have missed out on a lot during a pandemic – family events, dinners out – in order to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

But then Garbacz’ friend, Wendy Seth, who is also taking COVID-19 precautions, got an idea.

“I got sick of going to stores in the area and people not wearing a mask, whether it be employees or customers,” St. Johns County resident Seth said.

The two women decided to create a place where local businesses could promote their safety policies, and community members could share their experiences.

“I figured since there's no mask law in the community, at least this would be a way for people to say ‘hey, I went down to such and such business, and they were all wearing masks,” Seth explained.

The "ProMask Businesses in St Johns County and South Duval" Facebook group already has hundreds of members and has helped both women and other residents find new businesses they can support.

“I've definitely seen that the residents are excited,” Garbacz said.” I mean, it's just, you have the confidence to be able to go there, and I don't have to stress out about it.“

The two women hope the group continues to grow and makes a difference in more community members’ lives.