South Florida businesses split on new CDC guidance easing mask restrictions

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Some business owners in Miami’s Wynwood district said they will still require masks to be worn inside of their establishments, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases new guidance on masks for fully vaccinated people.

Stefano Romero, La Tiendita Taqueria’s general manager, said he does not have plans anytime soon to tell his guests they do not have to wear masks inside of his restaurant.

“I think the way we’re going right now, we’re going to take at least three or four months,”  said. “What we’re going to do right now is still ask for the masks because we don’t know who has the vaccine and who doesn’t have it, so it’s a little tricky.”

CDC officials announced Thursday they will relax their mask requirements. They said people who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks indoors or practice social distancing, except, for example, while on planes and buses.

However, some businesses like Upload Fitness in Fort Lauderdale plan to follow the CDC’s guidance.

“I’d say 75% of people here are vaccinated now anyway, so we relaxed the mandate because the CDC says it’s all right,” Upload Fitness General Manager Alan Reeves said. “We’re letting them go personal preference.”

CDC officials will not get involved with the decisions business owners will have to make moving forward.

“With regard to what businesses, communities, schools, we will of course be updating our guidance in many of these areas very shortly,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “but importantly, I think that we really need to understand that this country is very heterogeneous. It’s not uniform.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other local leaders will take a hard look at their COVID-19 cases before they make decisions.

“We have now just received this word from the CDC, so we will be evaluating and getting a message out shortly,” Levine Cava said.

“I would encourage counties and localities to look at how much vaccine they have, how many people have been vaccinated, look at how many cases are in their area and to make those decisions with that information in mind,” Walensky said.

School officials like Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said they will need to review their mask mandates and go from there.

“We’re going to convene and have a conversation with our medical advisor, Dr. Paige, who also happens to be the mayor’s medical advisor,” Carvalho said. “In addition to that, we’re going to convene very quickly our public health and medical expert task force, who is composed of some of the most brilliant minds out of [Florida International University] and University of Miami and beyond and pose the question to them.”

City and county leaders are expected to announce changes to their mask mandates in the coming days.

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