Trader Joe’s said it will allow fully vaccinated persons to go maskless in stores, while places like Home Depot, Target and Starbucks say customers should still cover up for now.
CVS and Walgreens, top pharmacies that offer the COVID-19 vaccine, haven’t changed their mask policies but they’re taking a second look and said they will be guided by the safety of their workers and customers.
“As a destination for COVID vaccine and testing we have decided to keep our current face-covering policy in place for the time being,” said Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman.
Companies, governors and retail workers are trying to navigate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s conclusion that fully vaccinated persons no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings.
With a fact sheet and brief remarks, the agency on Thursday upended a year of face-shrouding that served as a political lightning rod and sign of caution amid the deadly pandemic.
Some things changed overnight, with President Biden roaming the West Wing and White House correspondents sitting in the briefing room without masks.
“In just one day, we now anticipate an oversupply of masks and an under-supply of lipstick,” said Cecilia Rouse, chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters from the podium.
In the states, Connecticut immediately loosened its rules to reflect CDC guidance while New York and New Jersey said they’re not there yet.
And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would pardon “any Floridian” punished for flouting local mask mandates as he burnishes a reputation for opposing COVID-19 restrictions on daily life.
The sudden shift in CDC guidance sparked questions about timing and how it will be implemented in the real world.
After months of caution, the new rules popped up during a rough week marked by Middle East violence and a pipeline shutdown that sparked gas shortages across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic.
Biden adviser Andy Slavitt said the change was based on incoming data about the vaccines’ power and not political pressure.
“The CDC always is going to be criticized as either being too fast or too slow — usually at the same time, by the way. They’re getting it from both sides today, they got it from both sides before they made this change,” he told Fox News.
He pointed to the exponential drop in cases and new data on how vaccines prevent the spread, “which many people suspected but they now have some good data on.”
Mr. Slavitt also cited new data on the vaccines’ ability to thwart variants, plus the recent authorization of vaccines to people ages 12 to 16.
“Their job isn’t to be popular, they try to follow the science,” Mr. Slavitt said of the CDC.
The CDC got a little less popular with the United Food and Commercial Workers, a labor union for grocery and retail workers.
It fears the guidance will put its members at risk because unvaccinated persons will use the revision as an excuse to ditch their masks.
The union, which represents 1.3 million frontline workers, said it will be impossible to tell who got the shots and who didn’t.
“Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.
The statement offered a dose of dissent after most Americans hailed the revised guidance as a pivot to normalcy. The CDC said fully vaccinated persons should still wear masks in hospitals, prisons and on public transportation, however.
Some experts said the CDC’s update should prod people to seek the shots so they can get back to normal. Others said younger people will get what they want — no more masks — without bothering to get vaccinated.
Mr. Biden asked unvaccinated persons to keep wearing their masks, though said no one will “go out and arrest people” who cheat.
UFCW said it wants some clarity on how the guidance should be rolled out in stores.
“Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but we must not let our guard down,” Mr. Perrone said. “As one of America’s largest unions for essential workers, UFCW is calling on the CDC and our nation’s leaders to clarify how this new policy will be implemented, how essential workers will be protected, and how these workers will protect the communities they serve.”