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.