As the number of U.S. coronavirus infections rises, businesses large and small are now requiring masks. Restaurants, bars, and gyms across the country require vaccinations to enter.
After a largely mask-free summer, it’s a reversal no one wanted to see, brought on by the fast-spreading delta variant and new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. But business owners and workers say they will do what they can to keep their doors open and not slow the economic gains of the last few months.
“We’ve already gone through the worst of these challenges when we shut off the indoors last winter,” stated Brack May, chef and owner Cowbell, a New Orleans burger restaurant. Let’s get ahead of the curve.
Customers are now required to show their vaccination cards when dining indoors. May has recently made this a requirement. He stated that he wanted to protect his workers who must be vaccinated, but also have young children at their homes, and his neighbors, where musicians have contracted the coronavirus.
May believes that vaccine rules similar to his will eventually become commonplace. Next month, New York City will start requiring vaccinations to enter restaurants, gyms and theaters.
Customers are more likely to be faced with mask mandates for the time being. The CDC lifted mask recommendations for fully vaccinated persons in May and recommitted masks to unvaccinated individuals in high-transmission areas in late July.
This shifting guidance has created confusion about which rules should be enforced and how. Target and Walmart, for example, have recently started requiring masks for employees in areas with high virus transmission rates. McDonald’s requires masks for employees and customers. Home Depot has a nationwide mask mandate.
Only a few places, such as Louisiana, San Francisco Bay Area, and Las Vegas, require masks indoors.
Many business owners acted immediately without waiting for the CDC or their local governments. Tamra Patterson, a Memphis-based restaurant owner, reintroduced a mask mandate in mid-July and decreased the seating capacity at Chef Tam’s Underground Cafe from 200 to 65.
“I need every penny, dime, and dollar I can get. But if my employees aren’t healthy, I don’t have a business.” Patterson stated that customers who are sick will be without a business.
Patterson stated that customers are generally open to the mandate for the mask. One customer has left.
After seeing cases rise nationwide, PanTerra Gallery, a Bisbee-based women’s clothing shop, decided to reinstate a mask mandate for its customers a few week ago.
PanTerra employee Lisa Wines said, “We’re tourist towns, so it was only a matter of time until it reached us again.” She said that most people accept the new mandate. However, some customers walk out of the store and turn their backs.
Some businesses may not support the mandates. Basilico’s Pasta e Vino in Huntington Beach, California has criticized masks on social media. The sign at the door asks customers to show proof of their immunization.
Some workers don’t even want to see their masks returned.
Dru W. is a Houston grocery worker who requested not to be identified for fear of reprisals. He said that he had been fully vaccinated several months ago and now enjoys the freedom to leave behind a mask. He said that few stores in his area are following the new CDC guidelines and he will not.
He said, “I didn’t get both my doses” and had to deal with the side effects.
Others, however, see masks as a way to end the pandemic. Austin Ray Shanks works at a Walmart store in Monroe, Washington. He said that masks are uncomfortable, but necessary. Many customers refuse to wear masks at his store, which he regrets.
Marshall Crawley stated that his gym in Morrisville (North Carolina) recently announced that they would require masks for all patrons, vaccinated or not. He said that the rule isn’t being enforced.
Crawley, who is a client manager at J&J Editorial (a managed service company for scholarly publishing), said, “It doesn’t feel like it’s doing much good wearing the mask when everyone else isn’t,”
Crawley believes that the CDC went too far in telling vaccinated persons they could take off their masks for spring. He said that it would be difficult to get people to remove their masks again.
Jose Backer is a customer service representative at a Los Angeles County food packaging company. He said that his company started allowing vaccinated workers to remove their masks in January. They were soon removed by everyone. Backer was upset by this because he doesn’t want to see the same COVID-19 epidemic that sickened him last year. He is relieved to see that everyone in his county will now need masks.
Companies that have never given up on masks even though U.S. cases declined earlier in the summer can find some comfort in the new mandates.
After watching other companies struggling with different rules regarding vaccinated or unvaccinated workers, Liz Manasek (co-owner of Warner Bodies), a Elwood, Indiana custom truck manufacturer, maintained a mask policy.
She said that 60% of the company’s 105 employees have been vaccinated. She told employees that she will not remove the mandate until it reaches 80%.
Workers have reacted negatively to Manasek’s policy, but she insists that it has been successful. She said that only one or two of her employees have tested positive to COVID-19 since the outbreak.
She said, “We just have to keep going and do the basics.”