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Charlotte businesses are having mixed reactions about whether to ask everyone to wear masks indoors again.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended even fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas of high COVID-19 transmission rates, which includes Mecklenburg County. Mecklenburg, like other parts of the state and country, has seen an increase in delta variant cases of COVID-19.
While at least one business is embracing the new CDC recommendation, others aren’t.
“At this point it’s utterly ridiculous,” Hive Fitness co-owner Rob Jenkins said Tuesday. He said the Southside Drive fitness studio and gym didn’t enforce the mask mandate with its members before because “it’s not our place to tell them to wear them.”
But over at The Evening Muse in NoDa all staff, guests and performers are required to wear a mask, effective immediately, the music and performance venue said Tuesday on social media.
“We continue to strongly urge everyone to get fully vaccinated so that we can hopefully get to the end of this global pandemic,” the music venue said on its Facebook page.
Independent music venues, like the Muse, only opened in the last couple of months after being closed for more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Gov. Roy Cooper lifted most mask mandates in May based on CDC guidelines at the time.
Within a few hours of the Muse’s post, the majority of comments favored the decision: “Worth it to be able to support and enjoy live music,” one person said.
Waiting on local, state decision
Other Charlotte-area businesses encourage mask wearing but are waiting to see if local and state officials make any requirement decisions. Cooper has scheduled a COVID-19 update for Thursday afternoon.
Green’s Lunch in uptown, a longtime popular hot dog spot, has a sign on the door asking people to wear masks. Owner Joanna Sikiotis said some people do and some people don’t, but unless the government says people have to wear masks, she’s not going to enforce it.
District 57, a 20,000-square-foot game and entertainment venue that opened in the fall in west Charlotte, follows Cooper’s COVID-19-related mandates, co-owner Mylene Labrie said.
“We are waiting to see what he says,” she said.
Labrie said that even before the CDC update, she saw an uptick last weekend in the number of people wearing masks.
Still, she’s concerned about reinstating a mask mandate. “It just puts a lot of pressure on us,” she said.
At The Charlotte Cafe on Providence Road in south Charlotte, owner Jimmy Roupas said he’ll likely follow the CDC recommendations but plans to ask customers and staff if requiring masks indoors would make them feel safer.
The cafe has a sign on the door that asks customers who aren’t fully vaccinated to wear masks.
“I’m still concerned about that (the variant). I don’t want to be the reason someone gets sick,” Roupas said.
During the pandemic, health officials have said wearing masks helps curb the spread of the coronavirus, even though wearing them became a polarizing and politicized issue in the U.S.
“They’re just trying to do what’s best,” Roupas said of the CDC guidance.
Roupas said it’s difficult to enforce COVID-19 safety protocols as recommendations are in constant flux. Health experts worldwide continue to learn about the virus. But Roupas said requirements like wearing masks are easier to follow if everybody’s doing the same thing.
“I’m going to do what I feel is going to be the safest for my customers and employees,” he said.
Push to get vaccinated
Some local retailers also continue to encourage people to get inoculated against the virus.
On Tuesday, 5Church Charlotte on North Tryon Street in uptown offered customers an incentive of a free cocktail to anyone showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccinations on or after July 27.
“For all unvaccinated residents of North Carolina: 5th Street Group will buy you a VIPER for each vaccination shot you get,” the company said on its Facebook page.
Last week, Matthews-based grocer Harris Teeter said it is partnering with Lyft Healthcare, a subsidiary of ride-share company Lyft, to provide access to free and discounted rides to and from COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
“Access to reliable transportation represents a major barrier to care for millions of Americans across the country, especially for vulnerable communities,” Megan Callahan, Lyft Healthcare vice president said in a statement.
Roupas, The Charlotte Cafe owner, said he’s a “big believer in the shots.” The 75-year-old lived through the polio pandemic in the late 1950s and said the hospital hallways were packed with people with iron lungs.
“Finally, they found a vaccine for it and that was a wonderful thing they got rid of,” Roupas said.