After California fully reopened June 15, people have been able to go out and start resuming more normal activities and businesses across the county have adapted to the new guidelines with the option to enforce masks — or not.
Businesses may either require all customers wear masks regardless of vaccination status, follow the honor system which would allow those who claim to be vaccinated to go maskless or implement a process for verifying completed vaccinations.
At O’Neill’s Irish Pub in San Mateo, signs requiring customers to wear masks have been taken down and now people can enter without masks as long as they are fully vaccinated. It is based on an honor system.
“We’re still keeping our social distancing and hand sanitizer and other protocols in place,” Garrett Maire, manager of O’Neill’s, said.
Its maximum capacity is 76, which includes the outdoor area.
Employees are still wearing masks and will continue for the foreseeable future to give people peace of mind. When it comes to customers who continue to wear masks, it’s about 50-50, and some people still insist on sitting outside, he said.
“Personally I think it’s the new norm, I do think it will continue to be at least part of our social structure,” Maire said, referring to masks sticking around. He believes it may become more common and part of the social norm for someone to wear a mask when they are sick to protect others.
After struggling for a year and a half, he said it’s been welcomed to see the mask restrictions relaxed.
“Even if it’s a new norm, anything that’s normal is better than what we were at,” he said.
At Namaste Plaza in Belmont, the market specializing in products from India, continue to have its sign requiring customers to wear masks. And employees continue to wear masks as well.
Later on, the grocery store may allow customers to choose to wear a mask if they are vaccinated, Naina Takoor, an employee at Namaste, said.
It is undecided yet whether the market will be checking people’s vaccination cards or going off an honor system. Employees will continue to wear masks at all times until they get notice that the masks aren’t mandatory for them, she said.
While the Centers for Disease Control ruled in late May that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks in most settings, California lagged behind and timed its new rules to coincide with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening announcement June 15. At that time, the state’s tier system dissolved and we aligned with federal guidelines. Cal/OSHA rules followed a few days later for employees who are vaccinated yet allowed business owners to create their own rules within the guidelines.
And, of course, anyone can wear a mask if they prefer.
Takoor personally prefers to keep wearing the masks not only because she encounters a lot of people in person but because she says she’s used to it and is comfortable with it.
“I know I sound weird but I love wearing the mask,” she said.
At Nuts for Candy on Broadway in Burlingame, customers are required to wear masks and a sign is kept on the window.
“We’re a small private business and we’re requiring it right now until we feel a comfort zone,” owner John Kevranian said. “Maybe in a week or two, we may change our mind but right now we’re requiring it. And people don’t have any issue with it. They’re not complaining.”
He said if the majority of his customers stop wearing a mask, then he will likely change his policy to allow people to enter mask-free.
He staffs the store with his wife Nora and they will continue to wear masks and plan to stick with them for awhile even once customers start going maskless. Their main concern is the COVID variants, including the Delta variant, so they are sticking with the extra precautions.
“If the staff didn’t wear a mask, some people would hesitate to come in, in my opinion,” he said, adding that people have told him they are more comfortable wearing a mask in stores even after being fully vaccinated.
“I think masks will be here for many months to come. Especially when the flu season comes, you’re going to see more people wearing masks again. People are saying right now, I didn’t get the flu this past year, most likely it was because of the masks. I think it’s reinforcing that masks are helping from the COVID-19 virus plus the flu,” he said.
Many are excited to see things return to normal while others are still feeling cautious.
“It’s a good thing, it’s given us our freedom back. It’s good for things to … slowly go back to normal,” said Kaz Manzoor, when asked outside the San Mateo Rite Aid and T.J. Maxx how he felt about the mask restrictions being relaxed. He is fully vaccinated and said he has no issues once masks are no longer required inside grocery stores and businesses.
“In my case I’ll probably choose not to wear it,” he said.
Joanne Xu is also fully vaccinated but had a different response. When asked the same question, her answer was “Anxiety.”
“I’m really worried about it because not everyone got the vaccine. When you’re walking on the street, you don’t know if someone is positive,” she said.
She thinks it was too early to be relaxing the mask mandate and believes it would be better if they waited another year. She plans to continue wearing her mask until next year, or even for the next two years.
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