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Local businesses react to new CDC guidance

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Mask wearing is no longer mandatory in most St. Joseph County, and South Bend city-owned and operated facilities.

The edict issued today is consistent with new CDC guidelines that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear face coverings in most situations.

“What we’re going to recommend people do is if they are not fully vaccinated that they wear a face covering but it’s not going to be mandatory. We’re not going to ask people. They’re going to be able to enter without that. We do ask that because we think it makes sense,” said Andy Kostielney, St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners’ President.

Other entities were not quick to follow the lead of local government.

Many of the businesses, churches, and libraries 16 News Now reached out to today did not respond, although the Kroger grocery chain did issue this statement:

“At this time, The Kroger Family of Companies continues to require everyone in our stores to wear masks. We are encouraging and incentivizing associate vaccinations by offering a $100 one-time payment to associates who receive the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. As we have throughout the pandemic, we are reviewing current safety practices, the CDC’s latest guidance, and soliciting feedback from associates to guide the next phase of our policy.”

Meijer also responded to our inquiry with this statement:

“While we are aware of new CDC guidance, many state or local orders in the Meijer footprint remain in effect regarding masks. In order to help ensure the continued health and safety of all its team members and customers, Meijer continues to require face coverings by anyone entering a Meijer store or Meijer Express station at all locations, except where medical conditions prevent them from wearing one.”

South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rea said the CDC guidelines caught many by surprise. “So my impression from the businesses I talked to this morning is very quickly the mask mandate will go away. I haven’t talked to too many who say I’ll keep it in place. Initially if you were talking to me a couple of weeks ago, many of the national retailers were, had planned to keep it in place. Just given what was happening around the country, but the fact that almost every adult has had a chance to get vaccinated, Has lead them to think now is the time to lift that.”

Pati Kobalski said she has had COVID once, but is leery of the vaccine, and used to wearing her face mask. “Probably still continue to wear it when I go shopping, when I go out, I’m just used to it now. It’s kind of like used to wearing it. I feel better wearing it I guess.”

A spokesperson for the South Bend Farmer’s Market said the board of directors there will meet on Saturday and is expected to reconsider its policy on face coverings.

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