Local business owners prepare for looser mask guidelines

·4 min read

May 15—PLATTSBURGH — Sip Owner Kyle Dyer calls recently relaxed mask guidelines the "sunshine on the horizon."

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) Thursday released adjusted recommendations for fully vaccinated individuals, lifting face covering requirements at certain venues like offices, schools, gyms, restaurants and places of worships.

Masks were still suggested for non-vaccinated individuals, those with health concerns and in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals and prisons.

"I think a lot of people are going to be excited, or already have been excited," Dyer remarked Friday. "Obviously we have to wait until New York state fully backs it, but hopefully we're in the homestretch.

"It makes it a whole lot more personable when you can see someone's face and say, 'How are you guys doing?' and then give them a smile."

MAKE IT OPTIONAL

As a restaurant and pub, Sip's patrons already remove face coverings once seated. Like other eateries statewide, masks are required when standing, including trips to the restroom.

Restaurant staff, however, wear masks at all times.

If New York adopts the latest CDC guidance, allowing patrons and staff to go mask-less, Dyer, who said all of his employees were vaccinated on their own accord, anticipated he'd implement an optional policy.

"I feel like if the guidance is that once you're vaccinated, you're less of a risk to yourself and to others, I would leave it up to them," he said of his staff members. "If they feel more comfortable wearing a mask, or if they feel more respectful as people they can (wear one). . .

"I would consider going to a 'make your own decision' type deal, as long as you can show me that you've been fully vaccinated with your card."

MASK, NO-MASK AREAS

George Munson, owner of Visual Changes hair salon in the City of Plattsburgh, expected salon clients would be split on the potential new mask policies.

"If it were lifted," he said, "I would say you are going to have those who are comfortable with it and those who are not."

Unlike some other area salons, Visual Changes has space enough to keep stylists a good six-plus feet apart, but Munson expected some staff and clients would elect to wear masks even if the state implemented the CDC's latest guidelines.

"I think that's going to be an interesting development at salons and barbershops," he said, noting the inevitable closeness between stylist and patron. "You're going to definitely have people with different opinions.

"How do you please everybody?"

The salon owner was reminded of a time when businesses had smoking and non-smoking areas.

"Maybe there will be masks and no-mask areas," he said.

INDUSTRY CHALLENGES

Munson described some challenges faced by those in the cosmetology industry when it comes to face coverings, including cutting hair to fit an individual's facial features.

"It's kind of hard to cut to features if you have a mask on," he said. "I think not wearing masks would be helpful in the sense of just being able to see the face structure.

"It's also very difficult to go around the ears and not cut somebody's string that holds their mask on."

That said, Munson still thought it smart to wear a mask at this stage of the pandemic.

"I would still err on the side of health and safety," he said.

'RIGHT DIRECTION'

Asked if Stewart's Shops would welcome the mask changes, Director of Public Affairs Erica Komoroske said the company saw some possible challenges ahead with the potential new policies and their implementation, but said Stewart's ultimately looked forward to "slowly and safely getting carefully back to normal."

North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas saw some issues looming ahead, as well. He said the CDC changes would be broadly welcomed, but, if endorsed at the state level, did not expect much to change locally in the short term.

"Because it applies only to the vaccinated, it means businesses would seemingly have to verify that unmasked people are vaccinated," he commented Friday afternoon. "That would be a nightmare for business operations, so it is likely most will have to stick to full mask requirements for now.

"But again, the CDC change does tell us we are moving in the right direction."

Email McKenzie Delisle:

mdelisle@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @McKenzieDelisle

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