Mask Mandate Ends

A sign asking customers to wear face coverings hangs inside of Surf Styles on The Strand in Galveston on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

GALVESTON

Local businesses are adjusting masking policies after an announcement by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week that vaccinated people don’t need to wear face coverings indoors.

If businesses wanted to, they could still require masks and some large chains, including Kroger, still are doing so. But some local business owners say it’s just too difficult to enforce requirements, while others are ready to shed the face coverings.

Downtown Galveston’s MOD Coffeehouse, 2126 Postoffice St., is now strongly encouraging — rather than mandating — masks for customers, owner Holly Hopkins said.

Employees still will wear masks, and the popular coffee shop still is limiting indoor seating capacity. But the CDC’s guidance means it’s less realistic for businesses to ask customers to wear masks.

“At the end of the day, I feel like trying to actually enforce is becoming less and less realistic,” Hopkins said.

Other business operators see the new guidance as an opportunity for employees to remove their masks.

Main St Bistro in League City hasn’t required masks for customers since Gov. Greg Abbott lifted requirements in March, said Leslie Stewart, manager at the restaurant, 615 E. Main St.

With the latest federal guidance, employees also will allowed to remove their masks if they’re fully vaccinated, Stewart said.

Most employees just want to get back to normal, she said.

“It’s getting ready to be 100 degrees outside,” Stewart said. “It gets really hot in our restaurant.”

Locally, some major chain businesses also are dropping their masking requirements.

Walmart, CVS, Starbucks and Target are among the stores that dropped mask requirements after last week’s CDC announcement.

Grocery chain Kroger hasn’t announced it was lifting its mask requirements.

For some small businesses, fighting the masking battle doesn’t make sense anymore, owners said.

Most of the customers walking into Strand gift and home shops The Admiralty, 2221 Strand, and Tina’s on The Strand, 2326 Strand, say they’re vaccinated and all the employees have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, owner Wendy Morgan said.

“With 80 percent efficacy of the vaccine after the first dose, I felt like it was safe for me to go ahead and release the policy of requiring a mask in the store,” Morgan said.

Businesses need data and guidance to make decisions and the CDC announcement was an example of such guidance, she said.

Morgan also found it difficult to enforce the guidance without pushback from customers, she said.

Stewart also hopes the Main St Bistro’s decision to allow vaccinated employees to remove masks doesn’t drive people away.

“We certainly don’t want to lose business because some customers still don’t feel comfortable,” Stewart said.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

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