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Tampa businesses split when it comes to keeping mask requirements in place, or throwing them out

Mask requirements at local businesses
Posted at 11:21 PM, May 15, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — When it comes to the CDC’S new relaxation of mask-wearing guidelines, small businesses in the Tampa Bay area are pretty split on their plans moving forward.

Many business owners say the CDC’s new guidelines took them by surprise, and they’re still trying to decide. Some are getting rid of their mask requirement altogether, but then you’ve got others who say, they’re keeping it for now.

“We have decided to keep our mask policy in place,” said Jessica Rasemont, Owner of Tampa Casita Home and Living.

For Rasemont, she figures it’s better to keep her mask requirement in place rather than ask customers whether or not they’re vaccinated.

“That’s literally why we are keeping our mask policy in the store so that we don’t have those uncomfortable and extremely awkward exchanges with guests, that we want to come in to our store and enjoy their time here. If you get met with something awkward and very invasive and intrusive right at the door, I mean, do you want to go in and shop? No,” said Rasemont.

For several Tampa businesses we spoke with, they say relying on the “honor code” system is just too risky.

“I usually operate under the assumption that most people are truth-tellers, but with the deep desire for people to go maskless, I do not believe that everyone will be truthful, and when it comes to life or death, that’s not something I really want to mess with,” said Danielle Ferrari, Owner of Valhalla.

Valhalla is keeping their mask requirement in place, too. At least until vaccination numbers increase.

“The more people that get vaccinated, especially children,” said Ferrari.

It’s a big decision for small businesses to make, and reactions are split. Some businesses are ditching their requirements altogether. We reached out to several of those businesses and they declined to go on camera.

But for shoppers who are nervous about venturing into a world where mask-wearing may become more optional, Dr. Thomas Unnasch says if you’re vaccinated, no stress.

“The guidelines are finally catching up with the science and it’s saying that the vaccinations really do work really, really well, and people who are vaccinated can start to get their lives back,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor at USF.

From a public health standpoint, he hopes those who are not vaccinated will still wear a mask, in hopes of keeping case numbers low.

“It’s a really great idea to get vaccinated as quickly as you can because that’s how really all of us are going to be able to get back to normal lives again,” said Dr. Unnasch.

So now, as for whether or not you still need to carry your mask... keep it in your back pocket, as it’s up to each individual business whether or not they’ll be requiring you to wear it on their property.