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Masks still mandatory? Many businesses say yes

Trader Joe’s changes policy, but several retailers keep their rules despite new CDC guidance

Masks remain mandatory at many South Florida businesses
Masks remain mandatory at many South Florida businesses

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Despite new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying that fully vaccinated people can largely take off their masks, the majority of major retailers Local 10 checked with Friday say they are not changing their policies just yet.

Stephanie Vitori, the owner of Cheeseburger Baby in Miami Beach, says her rule is still “no mask, no service.”

“I’m still not comfortable with it, and it’s my job to keep my employees safe,” she said. “So I keep our dining room closed, and our masks need to stay on.”

As for how the public feels about the CDC’s new guidance, it depends on who you ask.

“It’s a very welcome change. Absolutely, said Miami Beach visitor John Kallianos. “Vaccines are doing exactly what we want them to do, and I think it should be safe.”

Resident James Jones, however, said: “I’m going to wear mine. I don’t care what the CDC says, I’m going to wear my mask.”

The CDC does still recommend masks in healthcare and transportation settings, and it’s up to private businesses whether they want to enforce their own mask policies.

Trader Joe’s dropped the requirement for customers who have gotten vaccinated — even so, we saw just one person shopping without a face covering at a store Friday.

Businesses deciding whether to keep or ditch mask mandates
Businesses deciding whether to keep or ditch mask mandates

Aventura Mall is recommending but not requiring masks in common areas. Individual stores there can make their own rules.

Most retailers aren’t rushing to implement new policies.

Publix is waiting on further guidance before implementing any potential changes. Home Depot also says no changes for now.

A spokesperson for Target said: “Target will continue to require all of our coronavirus safety measures in all stores, including masks and social distancing, while we review guidance from the CDC and evaluate the guidance we offer our team and guests.”

Many businesses are still prominently displaying their mask requirements. That’s just fine for a lot of people Local 10 News spoke with, who point out one obvious concern:

“You don’t know who took the shot and who didn’t, so you got to protect yourself. You gotta wear a mask,” Jones said.

Asked about that, a Trader Joe’s spokesperson said: “We do not require proof of vaccination, as we trust our customers to follow CDC guidelines.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the decision to loosen mask guidelines comes as cases are down and vaccines are proving effective in real-world scenarios — but the guidance is not one size fits all.

“What we really need to do now is look at each of our individual guidance for each of these individual settings and say in a setting of schools or childcare centers or the workplace, is this the appropriate thing to do given all other parameters?” Walensky said.

Local schools, meanwhile, say they are reviewing the new guidance. The districts in Broward and Miami-Dade say that for now their mask and distancing policies remain in place.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.