In Canonsburg’s business district on Pike Street, several businesses have taken down “masks required” signs, while others have left them on their storefront doors.
Since the Centers for Disease Control last week unexpectedly changed its guidance on face masks – giving the green light for people who are fully vaccinated to stop wearing masks indoors – big retailers, including Giant Eagle, Walmart and Starbucks, have announced they are, in most cases, dropping the mask requirements.
But for small business owners who were able to enforce mask wearing by relying on state or local laws, mask requirements are now being left up to them.
L&M Flowers is keeping its mask policy in place, at least for now.
“We’re still wearing ours. We’ve gotten our (vaccinations), and we’re sticking with the masks until we see a little more what’s going on,” said owner Harold Smith. “Most of the customers coming in are wearing masks. We’ve only had one or two here or there who haven’t. But we’re staying on the safe side and wearing them.”
At Magenis Fine Cigars, owner Brian Magenis carefully considered his options before he removed the “face mask required” sign on Wednesday morning.
“I’m fully vaccinated and most people who come in are vaccinated,” Magenis said, citing the updated guidance from the CDC in his decision.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health said last week it will follow the CDC’s recommendation to ease mask-wearing for fully vaccinated people, noting those who aren’t fully vaccinated are still required to wear masks inside stores.
Once 70% of Pennsylvanians over 18 are fully vaccinated, the masking order will be completely lifted.
But that decision is confusing for businesses, which currently have no way to verify who has or hasn’t gotten the vaccine.
So businesses are relying on the honor system.
Said L&M’s Smith, “You can’t ask customers, ‘Hey, can we see your card?’ It’s not like we can know for sure whether or not they’ve gotten vaccinated. We’re taking their word for it.”
At Keystone Barber Co., barbers Jesse Stoner and Ed Williams said customers welcomed the lifting of the mask mandate.
“They love it,” said Stoner. “I haven’t had one customer who’s complained about (not having to wear a mask).”
Client Eric Valencic said, “It’s been much needed.”
Jeff Kotula, President of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is recommending businesses continue following the CDC and DOH guidelines.
“And, while those guidelines are now relaxed, we are counseling our businesses to make a decision that accommodates their business practices and safety of their employees and customers,” said Kotula. “Overall, we still strongly encourage our businesses and residents to be vaccinated, not only for their own health, but also for the health of our economy.”
At Sam’s Pizza Shop, co-owner David Rhome, who also serves as mayor of Canonsburg, curbside pick-up service will continue, at least through July.
Since the pandemic started, Sam’s has delivered orders to customers outside, on the porch or sidewalk in front of the shop.
“In talking with our patrons, they are so happy and comfortable that we’ve taken the measures we have,” said Rhome.
Inside, employees wear masks.
“We’re working to protect our employees from COVID, too. We have some under 16, and we feel we have a responsibility to protect them, our customers, and management,” said Rhome. “We’d love to go back to the way we were, but for now, we’re staying with what we’re doing.”