JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The CDC’s rollback on face masks is encouraging news for some but it’s also creating confusion and mixed reactions.
“I think it’s time that the masks come off for those who have been fully vaccinated. That’s the decision we’re going to stand by,” Steve Smith, the CEO of Food City, said as he announced that the region’s largest grocery store is allowing the fully vaccinated to ditch their masks this week.
“[Employees] will be issued a vaccination logo to place on their name badge that they’ll be wearing. Customers can see that. Those associates will no longer be required to wear a face mask,” said Smith. “It’s fully voluntary. Our team of human relations coordinators will verify COVID-19 vaccination cards for those willing to participate who are fully vaccinated.”
Smith says people who have been vaccinated can still shop with a mask if they choose.
“I’ve been vaccinated but I don’t necessarily want to have to broadcast it to everybody so, I don’t necessarily agree with it because I would expect them to abide by the mask mandate if they hadn’t been inoculated,” said John Barrett of Bluff City.
On the other hand, some say displaying whether employees got the shot is a good idea.
“I feel like that should be public knowledge if you’re vaccinated or not but if someone is curious, you shouldn’t hesitate to answer if you’re vaccinated or not because that might make them comfortable being around you,” said Austin Wallace of Johnson City.
While Food City is asking those who haven’t received the shot to wear a mask, Owl’s Nest boutique in Johnson City says it is not requiring anyone to mask up.
“We are giving our customers their choice. If they want to come in wearing masks, they can. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to,” said Krystin Mays, the store’s manager. “When there is a mandate in our county, we do require that we follow that. But right now it’s up to the people.”
But when it comes to whether or not customers should have to share their decision, some people don’t think that would go over well.
“I would probably, you know, just put a mask on and keep walking,” said Barrett.
“I feel like it might make some customers agitated if they’re being asked if they’re vaccinated or not,” he said. “However though I do think that the cards that show if they’re vaccinated or not does help identify who’s been vaccinated.”
During the announcement today, Smith said Food City is “not going to be the mask police.” He also said that as more guidance and information comes out, the policy and guidelines could change.
“There’s not a decision I could have made concerning face masks that would have pleased everybody and I think you just have to understand that from the beginning,” said Smith. “The number one priority has been to continue with the focus on the safety of our customers and the dedicated team of associates.”