UWS Businesses Stick With Mask Rules Even as State Loosens Them: ‘You Don’t Know Who’s Walking In’


A sign outside Harry’s Shoes.

By Maya Mau

Governor Cuomo says that fully vaccinated people can take their masks off in most indoors spaces starting on Wednesday, based on new CDC guidelines. But it’s up to businesses and other organizations as to whether they want to allow maskless people to enter. 

On the Upper West Side, several businesses — though not all — say they’re planning to stick with their mask mandates, at least for now. And it appears that most customers are sticking to their mask routines too.

Trader Joe’s was one of the first national chain stores to announce that they were allowing fully vaccinated customers to shop maskless, though employees must still wear masks.

“Even though masks are no longer mandatory for fully vaccinated customers, people have still been choosing to wear their masks for the most part,” an employee at Trader Joe’s (72nd & Broadway) said. “It’s probably because we are still not sure how safe going maskless is.”

Whole Foods (97th & Columbus) is allowing customers to shop maskless as of May 19. Like Trader Joe’s, employees will still have to wear masks. Employees expressed contentment with the decision to continue mandating that employees wear masks.

Most businesses still have not made a concrete decision about when to allow customers to shop maskless. Employees at Billy’s Bakery (80th & Columbus), Harvest Kitchen (73rd & Columbus), Marshall’s (78th & Broadway), and Paper Source (75th & Columbus) all said that it would take more time and information for their respective companies to determine whether it is safe to drop the mask mandate for customers. At Andy’s Deli (80th & Columbus), Andy’s owner and employees said they will be “keeping the masks on to respect other people.”

“We will have to see how the CDC defines ‘indoors’ before determining whether or not we would allow customers to shop without masks,” an employee at Harry’s Shoes (82nd and Broadway) said.

Others are also content with keeping their masks on for the time being.

“[I plan to keep wearing my mask] for the next two years. It’s personal,” a barista at About Coffee (81st & Columbus) said. “I’m a closed person. It’s protection not just against COVID, but other people.”

An unmasked, middle-aged man sipping his coffee at a table outside also said he’d wait and see. “I’m going to give it some time,” he said, indicating that he was going to keep his mask on, well past Wednesday. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“I’m keeping it on,” a salesperson at Only Hearts (79th & Columbus) said. “You don’t know who’s walking in. We’ve come this far, we can go a little further.”

A front desk associate at Equinox Sports Club (92nd & Broadway) said that he would need more information before deciding whether or not to remove his mask once the luxury fitness chain permits it.

“Equinox Sports Club still requires customers and employees to wear a mask as per CDC, state, city, and corporate guidelines,” he said. “Once the corporate lifts the mask mandate, I would consider taking my mask off since I am fully vaccinated. It would depend on the situation at the time.”

Carol Tannenhauser contributed reporting.

NEWS | 78 comments | permalink
    1. Dennis Joseph Marion says:

      No masks at Equinox Sports Club required as of this AM.

    2. Bob says:

      It’s still early, so caution is perfectly normal and appropriate. Hopefully we’ll slowly get back to a place where we all feel comfortable without masks again, and will see that the threat has passed — because hopefully it has passed. But, you know, this was bad. It was really bad. It killed a lot of people, and it killed them in a horrifying way. If people are a little cautious coming back to normal… well, that’s ok.

    3. nycityny says:

      While I accept anyone’s personal decision on this issue, I don’t understand Harry’s Shoes’ confusion about how the CDC defines “indoors.” That’s about the least confusing aspect of all this. Indoors: of or relating to the interior of a building.

    4. UWSer says:

      It won’t be more than a couple weeks before nobody requires them. I am fully vaxxed and won’t be wearing a mask unless absolutely necessary, and will do my best to avoid businesses that insist otherwise. Believe the science and get back to your normal life.

      • Truth and Reason says:

        Completely agree. I was one of the strictest people in my circle when it came to masks and distancing. Two members of my family died of covid. But it’s hypocritical for us to tell mask deniers to follow the science then and now say “as a shoe store or a bakery we know more about covid than the medical experts” and deny the science by requiring them of vaccinated patrons now.

      • Janis says:

        I agree. I still carry a mask as I take buses, but will avoid any places that requires it, if I can help it.
        I called Trader Joe’s at 93rd & Columbus yesterday and asked whether it was adhering to the corporate announcement about going maskless. I was transferred to the manager who told me that, yes, they were, “HOWEVER we will have a box of masks at the door in case you change your mind. We find that it makes customers feel more protected and comfortable.” I explained that I agreed and if other customers feel more protected and comfortable wearing one, I would have no problem. I, however, will not be wearing one as I feel more comfortable without one.

        At this point it’s all about people not wanting to give up their control over others. And I, for one, would like to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

        • Kevin Horne says:

          “At this point it’s all about people not wanting to give up their control over others.”

          What a sad, sad take on the previous 14 months of literal he##.

        • Leon says:

          I don’t care what you do on your own. But we are still at a point where there are a lot of vulnerable people out there. What if a large portion of the employees of a store were still at risk (there is research showing that the vaccine might not be working on people who are immunocompromised)?

          Is it that hard to wear a mask a little longer? I am fine with having less restrictive rules but this attitude some people have now that anyone wearing a mask is evil is too much.

          Ain’t no one gonna tell me what to do! I have a nice farm with a gun shed in rural Texas to sell you…

      • Ken says:

        Exactly. If you are fully vaccinated, you are for all practical purposes immune from getting or transmitting Covid. So it is absolutely irrelevant to you who’s pretending to be vaccinated by going maskless. It simply doesn’t matter!

      • Lauren says:

        I agree. It seems there is a hypocrisy going. People were (rightly) very critical of those not following the science who were refusing to wear masks but now that the science is supporting removing the masks, the same people are not following the science, they are following their own fears and emotions. In any case there is nothing wrong with making personal decisions based on one’s own fears and non-evidence based emotions, there is no law that says everyone needs to be “rational” all the time. But let’s call it what it is. The decision to continue wearing masks if you are fully vaccinated is not based in science if the reason is that you don’t want to die of COVID. The vaccine alone will protect you from that.

        • Josh says:

          There is a difference between following the CDC and following science. The CDC has to conform to politics. Example – their refusal to acknowledge that it was airborne. They must balance safety with politics, such as the economy. If I choose to continue wearing a mask, it is not something for you to judge. It is a personal choice which is actually grounded in science. Most epidemiologists (the doctors who actually study Covid) believe the end of the mask mandates are premature. But those are scientists who can focus purely on science without needed to worry about politics.

    5. ben says:

      Personally I’m keeping my mask on in crowded indoor public spaces for now. Grocery stores, retail stores, last but definitely not least, the subway. The CDC may have opted to trust the un-vaxxed population in keeping their masks on but imo that’s just too naive.

      • Kim says:

        The CDC recommendations does not lift the mask mandate for public transportation. So masks are still required on planes, trains, buses and yes subways.

    6. Anthony says:

      I am vaccinated. What business is it of mine if others choose not to vaccinate or wear a mask? I am protected and so is everyone is my circle, so even in the unlikely event that I get it the likelihood I will pass it on to them is even lower.

      Masks have become an political identity badge. I see masked people, many young adults, wearing masks alone walking down the street or central park.

      • Bena says:

        Anthony:

        Many people have been wearing masks for different reasons. I started wearing masks outdoors a few years go due to allergies/sinus issues. NYC is notoriously filthy – been here for over 50 years….I say wearing a mask makes a lot of sense. I think it a bit over the top to think people are wearing masks for political reasons…even in my fancy co op – the indoor air is pretty awful – quality wise – not up to anyone to analyse other than daps to youngsters thinking about all of this…

      • D-Rex says:

        When vaccinated, you are better protected, not fully and therefore unvaccinated people not following guidelines may be a hazard to your health.
        Example: “New York Yankees say 8 vaccinated members tested positive for Covid-19”
        https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/13/sport/yankees-test-positive-covid/index.html
        Note – 8 VACCINATED players
        Yes, if you are exposed to it, there is still a chance you may get it, but no doubt better to be vaccinated.

        • Mark Moore says:

          The Yankees all had the J&J vaccine that’s less effective than the others, and they still didn’t get sick, they just tested positive.

        • Anthony says:

          Testing positive doesn’t mean you have covid it may simply reflect over sensitive tests, as highlighted by a NYT article last August.

          Many people testing positive have tiny amounts of virus that can’t get them sick or infect anyone else. I suspect, but don’t know, many fully vaccinated people have some virus as their bodies are in the process of ridding itself of it and that is picked up by the tests, whose sensitivity varies by lab (shockingly there’s no regulatory standard). Otherwise it’s hard to reconcile the reported effectiveness with 8 fully vaxxed Yankees testing positive, which statistically should be impossible, along w similarly anecdotal stories within my own circle.

        • Brandon says:

          I beg you and other commenters on here: please stop trotting out that story about 8 Yankees players testing positive. It does not support a need for continued masking.

          By the way, it’s up to 9 players now who have tested positive, and 7 of those cases are symptomatic. The other 2 have only mild symptoms.

      • Steve Downey says:

        I understand the science, I think, but I’m still wearing a mask.
        – the vaccine becomes less effective over time, especially for older people.
        – I know 2 non-vaccinated, anti-mask neighbors. Not sure what they’re thinking is but I have a feeling that there are many like them out there.
        – if vaccinated people are 100% safe, why are masks still recommended by CDC in subway, health care settings, nursing homes? Are they erring on the side of caution? Then so will I.

        Good luck to everyone!

    7. Frankie says:

      Good for people to err on the side of caution. Given what our city looked like a year ago, I respect that.

      • Boris says:

        It’s nonsensical to follow guidance that was more appropriate to the situation last year. That’s more like erring on the side of neurosis, not caution.

    8. nycityny says:

      I went to Target on the UWS this evening. 100% of people inside the store wore masks, employees and customers. When I exited I asked the employee at street level whether masks were required. She said no. Interesting that everyone still wore a mask. I wonder what day 2 or day 20 will look like…

    9. Geno says:

      Amazing the mxrxns are out in force as the pandemic winds down, just as they were when it started. Then, it was a lack of understanding about steps needed to protect oneself against the virus. Now, it’s the same idiocy regarding what the science tells us it’s safe to do if fully vaccinated. It’s no wonder the U.S. has had such a terrible time dealing with COVID-19. God help us that should we see another pandemic in our lifetimes.

    10. Boomerbabe says:

      I’ll wear my mask until the data comes in in a few months about the impact of going maskless. That’s the data that will influence my decision. I don’t want a mild case of Covid and after the year we’ve had and how unhinged the anti vaxers are, the honor system just doesn’t do it for me.

      • Maskless in NYC says:

        Here is your data: Texas banned masks everywhere 2 months ago and since then cases, hospitalizations, and deaths fell off the cliff. Stadiums are full of maskless tens of thousands of people and it’s been fine.

    11. carol says:

      Believe the facts:
      – People are getting sick and still dying
      – Vaccines are not 100% effective
      – Some individuals cannot stage an immune response, even with the vaccine
      – Anyone who tests positive may infect an immune-compromised individual and cause them to get sick and die

      This is not just theoretical. A friend of mine was hospitalized with COVID even though she was fully vaccinated a few months ago. (And yes, she used a mask.) It turns out that one of the medications she was taking to manage her leukemia prevented her from developing immunity. She received monoclonal antibodies, but still she died last week.

      COVID is a killer. Do you want to risk spreading it to someone whose immune system is compromised? Preventing COVID’s spread is everybody’s business.

      • Sophie says:

        Hi Carol, I am so sorry that you lost your friend 🙁

        And I agree about continuing to wear masks as a preventative measure. It’s not a big deal for me and it’s something small I can do for others. A friend of mine has multiple sclerosis, and she’s unsure if the vaccine is working for her either; so even though I’m fully vaccinated, I will continue to wear a mask.

    12. I’m fully vaccinated and hate wearing a mask, but am law-abiding; so I love love love going into Trader Joe’s without that hated covering… and now, I tend not to go where they’re still required.

      For what it’s worth, since I changed my diet about 10 years ago, I never get bacterial or viral illnesses anymore; no colds, no flu etc. I mean, I don’t tempt fate by doing particularly stupid things but I just don’t ever get sick, or even see physicians.

      I quit Equinox when they said I’d have to mask-up; but not because I thought Equinox was wrong; rather, because I can’t wear that choking thing that makes breathing so difficult for me, and then have to work out, with all the rapid breathing such activities require.

      And working out at home turned out to be much more satisfying; I work out when I feel like it, I play my own music at a level I choose, no special clothes are required, not being on display is nice, and the temperature here is never too cold either.

      PLUS: saving $200 every month really works for me as well.

    13. Lrahip says:

      I’m glad businesses are being cautious. Why should the employees, who have no choice in being there, risk exposure. No matter how small the risk may be if you are vaccinated, as an asymptomatic carrier you can endanger more vulnerable family and friends.

    14. OS/UWsider says:

      For over a year all we have heard is ‘listen to the science’…’I trust the science’.
      But now you dont…..so now I guess its okay to be selective about what the CDC says and what science its okay to believe in on whatever particular day it is??
      At least the flu has disappeared…

    15. yoma says:

      Why can’t businesses just ask people to show proof of vaccination? If you can get carded at a bar and have to produce ID to get on a plane, we’re all used to that kind of thing anyway. If you forget your vax card, just put on a mask for 2 minutes.

      It doesn’t have to be that complicated!!!

    16. j hagman says:

      Lets go by CDC and stop making our own rules.
      Get vaccinated.

    17. Sophie says:

      A few of my friends who started going maskless recently have caught colds. Knowing what we know now about the effectiveness of masks, I’m thinking that regardless of covid I’ll become a seasonal mask wearer, especially during flu season and in crowded spaces. So far it’s been great against allergies this spring!

    18. Burton says:

      How about this? Covid isn’t the only virus out there! Masks protect you from more than that. In NYC we are particularly vulnerable as an international tourist and business destination to new infectious diseases. And now that it’s not weird to wear a mask, I for one don’t think I’ll ever go maskless on a subway or bus again for instance.

    19. Rob. H. says:

      As a doctor I am very disappointed when I see someone wearing a mask. Unless you are fat or over 70 Covid is less dangerous than eating McDonalds. I’m no longer worried about Covid and I stopped wearing a mask. If you require a mask I will just shop elsewhere. My family just laughs at anyone we see wearing a mask now. It is a meaningless gesture that just shows you don’t understand the medicine. My strong advice is to eat less, give up sugar and cut out carbs. Go for a 45 minute walk 7 days a week and you will loose weight, feel better, have stronger sex drive, less depression and live longer. Covid is not what you should be worried about. Being fat is much more dangerous. 59% of Americans are over weight just due to over eating and too little exercise.

      • Lifelong Competitive Athlete says:

        “Unless you are fat or over 70 Covid is less dangerous than eating McDonalds.”
        Wow.. a quote right out of a medical journal?

        I don’t think many would argue against maintaining a good level of fitness and body weight, however equating eating at McDonalds (within reason) being more dangerous than Covid is quackery.

        You should publish your full name and type of “medicine” practiced so potential patients can evaluate your views and potentially steer clear of your style of “bedside manner” and compassion for the many situations facing individuals.

        • lynn says:

          I believe he’s a doctor based solely on the fact that he’s so condescending. 😉

          “My family just laughs at anyone we see wearing a mask now.”

        • UWS_lifer says:

          I doubt very much that this person is a medical doctor. The derisive way he calls people “fat” sort of gives it away. A real doctor would say obese, overweight, refer to BMI, etc.

          Remember this is the internet. We can all say we are anything we want. Which really upsets me in particular, being an astronaut and an expert in astrophysics. All my years of study at MIT and Cal Tech mean nothing if anyone can say whatever they like. I didn’t work at NASA for 20 years and live on the International Space Station for 2 years for nothing.

          Anyway, I have to run because I have a big day tomorrow since I’m running for Mayor and the NBA playoffs start this weekend. Did I forget to mention that I’m a backup point guard in the NBA?:)

          • Lifelong Competitive Athlete says:

            UWS_lifer:
            I think you are being too humble… I would recognize your writing style anywhere! Old Testament of the Bible – That’s you right?

            Thanks for your sense of humor, good luck in the NBA playoffs, I will try to catch your games when I have a night off from my NHL career (I play for two different teams, coach one and also “doctor” on the M5 Bus route. Busy, so busy..)

      • Jamie says:

        @Rob H – You may be a doctor but you’re also an idiot. It’s yiu who clearly doesn’t understand the science. Why the hell do you care what other people do? How does it affect your life if someone decides to continue wearing a mask. As I said, you’re an idiot.

      • John says:

        This!

      • Josh says:

        Remember Trump’s Expert Covid Advisor? That radiologist?

        Not everyone who gtaduates law school makes a good lawyer. Not everyone who graduates medical school makes a good doctor.

      • Steve Downey says:

        Really. Please, Dr. Rob H., for the sake of other doctors with those initials, please publish your name.

      • Nani says:

        Rob H: I agree 100% with you. Nice to hear a doctor give healthy nutrition tips to keep our immune systems up, they don’t teach you that in med school usually! Yes, i’m not wearing my mask either and exercising my lungs- how nice to take deep breaths!!! have never been healthier than in the last year, having daily vitamin d3c vitamin c, sunshine ,laughter etc

    20. mattie says:

      I literally gave birth in a mask. The fact that you clowns can’t bear to wear one while shopping at Whole Foods is so galling. You wear shoes don’t you? You don’t stomp around demanding that you should have the right to be barefoot.

      Believe the science, fine, but the science also says that none of this is airtight. So you can’t take a small painless step while the science gathers more data, while we get our numbers low enough that we have a day or so in which no one dies? That we get to the point where vaccines are available for all age groups? That at know are what point antibodies start to diminish and folks become vulnerable again?

      Seriously. You people are calling stores to ask if masks are needed and then declaring you won’t shop there if they are? Where do you find the time. JFC. Go touch grass.

      • Truth and Reason says:

        Do you have COPD? What about emphazema? Hearing loss? One of the many other multiple conditions that make mask wearing difficult if not impossible? Many of these at risk people that we have claimed over the last year to care so much about have done everything they are supposed to do. They have stayed at home away from friends and family and waited for their vaccines. And now that they’ve gotten them and that the positivity rates are nearly nonexistent, we are saying to hell with the science, who needs science when there’s fear, you wanna come in my store, wear a mask.

        Congrats on your baby. May she or he learn compassion.

        • FedUp says:

          My mom has bad COPD. Wearing a mask is not easy for her. But she doesn’t act like a whiny crybaby when she wears one at Trader Joe’s like most of you anti-mask losers.

      • UWS Mom says:

        LOVE. THIS. You go, mama!

        I assume you’re the mother of a small child. No one here is mentioning that 12 & under are still not vaccinated and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Chances of the littles getting seriously ill or, Heaven forbid, dying, are extremely low. But, still too high for me to take a risk with the most precious thing in my world. My child and I won’t step foot into stores allowing unmasked customers, until he’s vaccinated. We stayed home and masked up for all you old folks…would it be that hard for you to all do it a few more months?!

      • Covid Jones says:

        The science, indeed, shows that no mask is airtight.

        That’s been the problem with masks all along, and why it’s silly to wear them once you’re vaccinated.

    21. Mickaloo says:

      Ironic that was the very Liberal once free upper West side in New York City are now from largely held captive by fear of the unknown. Perfect indoctrination experiment. Expect more loss of freedom.

    22. Kewl Dood says:

      I’m just glad that this week there has finally been a shift in the amount of people wearing masks outside. Outdoor mask wearing was still very common until the last few days. Indoors will probably take time for a lot of people, which is fine I guess.

    23. Anne says:

      People are generally stupid it appears…
      And neurotic…
      Take a plunge into the 21st century— it’s called SCIENCE

    24. JerryV says:

      My only concern is for those who have an immunodeficiency and for whom vaccination may not be effective or advisable. Perhaps these people can wear a badge stating something like:
      “Hello. I have a medical condition that does not permit me to be vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated, I would be grateful if you would wear a mask when close to me or not come close to me at all. Thank you”

    25. EdNY says:

      Everyone has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. If an unvaccinated person chooses to be maskless inside with other maskless people, it’s at his or her own risk. I have no problem being inside an establishment without a mask (assuming that’s the owner’s policy) regardless of how many unmasked, unvaccinated people there are. The vaccines work.

    26. SM says:

      Masks were always just theater. Wear one, don’t wear one, whatever. It doesn’t matter. It never did.

    27. RAL says:

      seems like some are going to live in fear for another 40 years. While I appreciate that some people might be have underlying health issues that make vaccines not so effective or there are people that won’t or can’t be vaccinated – what are we to do? wear masks for the rest of our lives?

      • Lifelong Competitive Athlete says:

        Exactly!
        What will people us to do next?! Wear shoes and pants everyday??!! Stop the insanity!

        Seriously… There are still risks, if people want to do something to reduce the small risk to an even lower level, good for them! If I can do specific training to reduce the chance of injury in sports, I do it. Why not, it just makes me better and allows me to keep in he game.
        And there are people, vaccinated or not, that have higher levels of exposure (working in stores, etc.) wearing a mask gives them even more protection and is likely reassuring in a less controlled environment.
        There are still thousands of people contracting Covid in NYC every week, and hundreds who die every month. This is not over… better… but not over.
        Keep it up everyone do what’s “right” not what’s “easy”.

    28. sg says:

      What lemmings you UWSers are. The government’s control through fear was accomplished perfectly.

    29. Just Bob says:

      Bikes aren’t neccessarily the problem. It is the people riding them that is the problem. If we were to remove bike lanes, some of the riders will just ride on the sidewalks. Additionally, while I do appreciate the food delivery people on bikes…some of them are very reckless and careless.

    30. NinaK says:

      I don’t know where to leave this comment, but the UWS is in a paranoid haze. I am a health care provider, and would have done anything in my power, followed all guidance, to protect myself and others from COVID-19. But folks, we still need to be following the science here. The U.S. Post Office cannot seriously deny sale to me a fully vaccinated person because I’m not wearing a mask. Don’t know where to report this, but this happened on educated 83rd Street PO between Col. and Amsterdam. If you are not vaccinated or are immunocompromised, or otherwise anxious, you should absolutely continue wearing masks, especially indoors. However, you cannot impose this on others! My not wearing a mask will in no way risk your health.