ATLANTA — The CDC released hopeful news on Monday: fully vaccinated people can be around other fully vaccinated people, indoors, without masks.
But the news left some small business owners with concerns on how to regulate the guidelines and keep non-vaccinated people safe.
“That was my first thought when I read it,” admitted business owner Cali Benford. “That's just one more challenge that we're going to be faced with while trying to take care of our clients."
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people (who have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without a mask. The recommendations also say fully vaccinated people can gather with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless people with a high risk for severe illness are present.
Here’s the kicker, though. The guidelines also say fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask in public or around others who are vulnerable to COVID-19, avoid crowded areas, and practice physical distance.
Business owners like Benford, who owns Bellissimo Salon, worry people will try to take more liberty with the guidelines.
“When we have people that come in, you know, how do we know if they're vaccinated? How do we know if they're telling the truth, or, you know, if they're just saying it, so they don't have to put their mask on?”
Amy Bielawski, owner of Hare-Brained Productions, an entertainment company that hosts birthday parties, singing telegrams and other events, has the same concern.
“Well, how do we trust people? I don't know what happens this year when people start using that as an excuse. When we still really don't know,” Bielawski explained. “We're still in the middle of it, in my opinion.”
According to the CDC’s vaccine trackers, around 10% of the U.S. population is considered fully vaccinated. The CDC also expects to revise recommendations over the next few months.
“The CDC learns new things all the time. So, nothing's definite because things are changing,” Benford, who is nine months pregnant, said.
Benford also works with many older clients, so until more people are vaccinated, she said she’s going to keep her rules in place; all people must wear a mask, and she plans to keep up with deep cleaning her salon.
“I got to protect my clients that are high risk. So now, it'll be interesting to find out,” she said.
Bielawski said she plans to also keep her rules in place, which means physical distancing, and asking guests at events to wear masks.
“Things like that - face painting - would be out for me at this point. I'm not going to get into people's faces, even if you have a mask on,” Bielawski said. “But other kinds of entertainment seem to be fine. Singing telegrams are great. You can stand six feet or more apart and still entertain people. But yeah, it is concerning.”
In an already challenging year for businesses who have had to make new accommodations, work within local and state guidelines, keep their business afloat, and protect customers, Benford said she hopes customers will continue to be understanding about her policies.
“As far as businesses, we all have to make a personal decision on what's going to make us comfortable and our clientele as well,” Benford added. “And for those of us still enforcing the masks, it's may cause us to lose business, honestly.”