It’s no secret that the world flipped upside down when the CDC first recommended Americans to wear masks in public settings at the beginning of April 2020. More than a year later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York would be following the CDC’s new mask guidelines, which allows vaccinated people to go maskless indoors in most businesses, causing many establishments to make mask-related announcements. While some have decided to follow the CDC’s recommendation, others aren’t as eager.
Melissa Magan, owner of boutique hair salon Chroma in New Paltz, quickly let her customers know that masks would still be required with a Facebook announcement on May 18. “We always respect your privacy and safety here, which means we won’t be screening anyone for proof of vaccination,” the post stated. “We will remain masked for your safety, and we ask that you do the same.”
Magan, who already does one-on-one visits to minimize the risk, made the decision after a fair discussion with her employee and some clients. “Most people said they feel safer just keeping masks on for now,” said Magan. “It also makes sense to me to stay masked for now to protect those who are still unvaccinated like kids and immunocompromised people.” Magan said immunocompromised people have messaged her, thanking her for continuing to require masks.
Magan isn’t as trustworthy of the honor system as some others may be. She believes without mandatory mask requirements, many unvaccinated persons won’t wear masks either, prolonging the pandemic.
“We haven’t reached herd immunity in New York yet, so unvaccinated people will only spread the disease more efficiently and help create more variants,” she said.
The Woodstock Public Library District also quickly announced it would maintain mandatory mask requirements. “We are overjoyed at the CDC and NYS decisions to loosen masking requirements,” read an email sent to patrons May 19. “However, we are continuing to provide a masked environment so it can be welcoming to all. Masks must be worn inside the library and at the Walk-Up Window for staff safety.”
Library Director Jessica Kerr said this decision was met with positive as well as critical feedback. “We’ve gotten a few complaints questioning where the guidance came from that we can still require masks,” said Kerr. The library is open to changes in the future but is continuing to enforce masks to protect all members of the community. Kerr said, “We serve people from birth to old age. Kids under 12 aren’t able to be vaccinated, kids 12 to 16 are just able to be vaccinated and there are a lot of people who have medical reasons [and as a result they] can’t get vaccinated. As well as people who are just choosing not to.”
However, there are other local spots that are embracing the change. Sitting snug in Kingston’s business district is Joe Beez, a sandwich shop well known by the community. Though initially nervous after hearing the news, they decided to allow vaccinated staff and customers take off the masks indoors. Co-owner Rebecca Gallinger is vaccinated herself. “We work in a high-heat environment and we ourselves didn’t want to go into the summer months wearing them. We felt it only fair to let our customers do the same,” Gallinger said. Although not all of their employees are vaccinated, the ones who are can show their faces.
Initially, Gallinger feared how their customers might respond, but most have been supportive. This came as a surprise to her. “It’s been great with comments such as ‘It’s so nice to see your face!’” Gallinger said.
Joe Beez offers curbside pickup and online ordering for those who desire less contact or feel uncomfortable following the decision. In its announcement on Facebook, the shop writes, “Trust and honesty is of utmost importance, please if you are not vaccinated, wear your mask for the safety of others and yourself.”
Another location that has adapted to new guidelines is the Poughkeepsie Galleria, which put out an announcement stating vaccinated mall-goers could stroll around mask-free, though the Galleria recommends shoppers carry masks as some stores or restaurants may have their own policy.
Though the mask change is a giant step toward pre-pandemic life, some businesses aren’t ready to take it. Individual businesses are updating their mask policies every day in support of themselves, their customers and family. Be sure to check for a mask policy on the door before walking in.