Local businesses hesitant to ditch mask requirements, despite CDC guidance

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 23:26:19-04

CUDAHY — As big box stores announce mask requirement changes following new CDC guidance, local businesses are making decisions of their own.

Twisted Plants in Cudahy has been curbside since it opened in May 2020. Part of that is because management is remodeling the dining room. Once it opens sometime this summer, owner Brandon Hawthorne says he has to figure out what to do about masks.

"I think we are going to leave it as a personal decision. Will we enforce our employees to wear it? No, not at that time, we won’t," Hawthorne said.

New guidance from the CDC indicates fully vaccinated people can ditch the mask in most cases. Exceptions include crowded indoor spaces such as public transportation, or where a city or business requires it.

Hawthorne said he plans to release a survey on social media to hear what customers want.

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"Customers come first," Hawthorne said. "If a majority say they are comfortable without masks, then it's a go. But if we get a lot of slack or negative feedback about it, then we will revisit the situation."

"It just doesn't seem real yet," said Andy Slania, one of the owners of X-Ray Arcade in Cudahy.

He says he's not planning to ease up on mask requirements quite yet.

"We're kind of keeping it as long as we can, as long as we feel comfortable," Slania said. "The story changes day by day, right, so we are trying to do what we can to what makes sense for that given day."

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The CDC says more than 36 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Close to 39 percent of people in Wisconsin are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Erik Eisenmann is a partner at Husch Blackwell and the chair of the firm's national labor and employment practice. He said he expects local laws to change in accordance with CDC guidance, and he said businesses have to decide for themselves what restrictions work for them.

"If a business is simply doing that on the honor system, how do I know that everyone I see without a mask on has actually been vaccinated?" Eisenmann said.

He said he envisions employers having three options when it comes to vaccination proof: require employees to show their vaccination cards, have employees sign attestation forms, or go by the honor system. He said the EEOC has made clear requiring someone to show their vaccination card is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, nor a HIPAA violation.

"You're already hearing some questions, is it discrimination to require a non-vaccinated person to wear a mask, and to allow a vaccinated person to not wear a mask?" Eisenmann said. "My answer from a legal perspective is no."

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