COVID Houston: Small Enterprise House owners Say New CDC Masks Directions Might Change The Manner They Work

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Amid a resurgence of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now calling on those in widespread areas to mask themselves.

“The first thought is … I’ve seen this movie before,” said small business owner Al Jara.

Its neighborhood bar, the Marquis II near Bissonnet and Kirby, is still on the upswing after months of closing in 2020.

The CDC guidance comes after Governor Greg Abbott banned every public entity from masking obligations, putting small businesses back on the hook for policy making.

ALSO READ: Governor Greg Abbott Says He Will Not Impose A New Mask Mandate Despite Increasing COVID-19 Cases

“It’s difficult to expect us to enforce on our customers or anyone who walks in the door,” Jara said. “We are in the hospitality industry, which means we should be hospitable.”

Out in Waller County, another small business owner said he was over it.

“It’s been a really long year,” said Marcus Wunderle.

His brewery and taproom, the Baa Baa Brewhouse, followed the state mask mandate for months but said they won’t need it under recent CDC guidelines.

“It’s very uncomfortable,” he said. “People are hostile and we just won’t deal with it.”
The vaccination rate in Waller County is one of the lowest in the Houston area, but like the brewery, the Brookshire Iron Horse Saloon said they will again go without masks.

“Since we were out here in the country, our numbers weren’t very high,” said Keri Robinson, co-owner of the saloon. “Most of the time the people who came in were my regulars and we all spent COVID together anyway.”

In neighboring Fort Bend County, where vaccinations are among the highest in Texas, restaurant owner Alex Marini is only taking takeout orders and is still asking customers to mask themselves.

“We still need the mask,” said Marini, the owner of The Original Marini’s Empanada House in Katy. “Even when we have our vaccines, you don’t know what the new variant is or what’s going on. You don’t know whether everyone is vaccinated or not.”

Marini has been able to keep his eight employees full-time on the payroll, but the mask decision comes at a price.

“Some people are upset. Some people didn’t come back, but our health is the most important thing,” he said.

Citing new information about the ability of the delta variant to spread among vaccinated individuals, the CDC also recommended inner masks to all teachers, staff, students and school visitors regardless of vaccination status.

The new policy follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor masks amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospital stays, which have been particularly bad in the south. The country has an average of more than 57,000 cases per day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospital admissions.

Most new infections in the US continue to be from unvaccinated people. However, vaccinated people can develop “breakthrough infections” which usually lead to milder illnesses.

When earlier strains of the virus prevailed, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of the virus and were considered unlikely to spread the virus widely, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The AP contributed to this report.

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