Companies change their policies on face masks | Local News

With one of the biggest features of the pandemic – the requirement to wear face masks in public – disappearing, local businesses are following suit by adjusting their policies in the wake of this latest step towards normalcy.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s decree earlier this week, which quashed the state’s mask mandate in place since May 2020, now says fully vaccinated people are no longer recommended to ‘mask themselves’ in most public places .

The decree also specifies that local governments and businesses can continue to implement masking policies that are more stringent than those required by the state.

Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said it was crucial that Pritzker’s order did not require companies to check the immunization status of every customer. At the same time, it leaves room for maneuver for institutions to set their own rules.

“I think it was important that they didn’t make us the vaccination police,” he said. “It was important to do that because it’s not achievable, and they’ve always given not only retailers but businesses the option to demand face masks if they want to.”

Last weekend, in the period between the CDC’s shift in focus on Thursday and Pritzker’s cancellation of the state’s mandate on Monday, some Illinois retailers faced confrontations from customers. , Karr said.

Customers likely didn’t understand the gap between the updated CDC guidelines and state and store regulations that were still in effect, he said.

Going forward, Karr said he believes cases like these will decrease.

“I think those [stores] those who want to apply it will have an inscription, and I don’t think there will be many, ”he said.

At the start of the pandemic, some incidents in response to the mask’s mandate were more serious, Karr noted.

These included physical confrontations, fights between customers and even a customer wielding a knife at a retail employee, he said.

Tensions are also high at the local level.

In August, a Bourbonnais was arrested after allegedly shooting a gun at three other customers who did not wear face masks while shopping at Bourbonnais Jewel-Osco. Police said the man confronted customers without masks in the parking lot, saying, “How would you like to get shot in the head?”

Earlier this month, a Daily Journal reporter saw a guest from a large chain of gyms in Kankakee start a verbal confrontation and yell obscenities at a gym worker who was trying to enforce the gym’s social distancing policy .

“Fortunately, over the weekend we just had a few verbal confrontations,” Karr said. “But nonetheless, it shows that we put retailers at risk when we don’t have that kind of enforcement power. Again, I think the way the governor has aligned himself with the CDC is a good thing. “

Joe Girard, owner of Girard’s Ace Hardware in Bourbonnais, said his store left the wearing of the mask to the discretion of its customers and employees.

He estimates that 75% or more of customers wore masks in the store before this week, even without any nudging. Since the state rules have changed, more and more people are shopping without a mask.

“I’m happy to see (the tenure change) because some people are uncomfortable wearing a mask all day, employees in particular,” he said.

Girard said he encouraged employees to wear masks, but some were reluctant. With staffing issues during the pandemic, he didn’t want to force the issue.

He noted that he had had a “hiring” sign on the door for over a month and that someone came to inquire.

“To be honest, it was extremely difficult to keep employees during the pandemic, let alone tell them they have to wear masks or come out,” he said.

Considered an essential business, the hardware store has been open full hours throughout the pandemic, he added.

“We never closed for a minute,” Girard said.

Chris Johnson, CEO of Classic Cinema, which includes the Meadowview and Paramount theaters in Kankakee, said he was “a little caught off guard” by the change in focus of the masks.

“The world is changing extremely quickly,” he said.

Johnson said at the end of this week that the company was in discussions about adjusting its policy to reflect the change in CDC guidance, with plans likely to be finalized next week.

Even with the relaxed requirements for face masks, theaters will still require them to be worn by employees, he said.

“We don’t want to be the trailblazer on anything,” he said. “We want to follow what’s going on.”

Johnson also noted that theaters would continue to space customers out in all other seats, even if social distancing advice loosens in the near future.

“We are going to take it one step at a time,” he said.

Most department stores in the area have signs confirming changes in mask policies.

ALDI no longer needs masks for fully vaccinated customers, while fully vaccinated employees will be able to dispose of their masks on May 26.

Other stores like Meijer and Walgreens take a similar approach; they allow fully vaccinated customers to shop without a mask, while employees must continue to wear them for now.

Kohl’s is also dropping its mask rules, noting that fully vaccinated customers are encouraged to shop “with or without a mask,” and the company will “strongly recommend” masks for unvaccinated customers and employees.

Walmart’s approach is the same, with fully vaccinated customers and employees able to dispose of their masks while those not fully vaccinated are encouraged to keep them.

Target also said it will no longer need masks for fully vaccinated customers and employees, while unvaccinated people are “strongly recommended” to continue wearing them.

The companies all note that state and local ordinances with more stringent mask requirements will be enforced.

About Erin Redding

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