LOS ANGELES – It turns out that many people are not that eager to throw away their masks.
California fully reopened Tuesday, and with that, residents who are fully vaccinated were able to go into many public places without masks, even indoors. Some did. But many others decided to keep their masks on.
For the general population, fully vaccinated people are no longer required by the state to wear masks in most public settings, such as stores, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and family entertainment centers – bowling alleys, arcades, trampoline parks, ice skating rinks and the like.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after receiving their only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Among the businesses putting up signs allowing vaccinated customers to enter without a mask are Ralphs and Food 4 Less, a spokesman for the supermarkets’ parent company, Kroger, said.
But some smaller businesses are keeping mask rules for now.
At Charlie’s Best Burgers in East Los Angeles, the burger and Mexican food chain still required customers to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
“Right now, there are just too many unvaccinated people to not ask our customers to wear masks,” said restaurant general manager Jorge Jimenez, 35.
“If you look at the area, it’s been hit hard by COVID-19. It doesn’t make sense right now to change.”
Signs in English and Chinese told any customer entering Ken Huo’s Furma Mattress store in Temple City that they must wear a facial covering.
The idea that the state would recommend the end of mask usage repulsed Huo, 59.
“This virus is incredibly dangerous, and I can’t believe people don’t want to understand that,” Huo said. “I know people want to go back to ‘good times,’ but where’s the responsibility? Where’s the accountability?”
Unvaccinated people are still required to mask up, according to the latest order by the California Department of Public Health.
People who are always exempt from mask rules include babies younger than 2; people with a medical reason, mental health condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask; and people who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing impaired because the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
Under an order issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone still has to wear masks on public transit, such as airports, airplanes, subway stations, trains and buses.
In Long Beach, Christopher Hudak read the new sign taped outside of CoffeeDrunk: “Your safety is important to us. Masks are recommended.”
The 24-year-old kept his on as he walked inside and ordered his usual iced coffee, and said he didn’t plan to leave his face covering behind any time soon.
“I’m still used to it,” he said. “Right now, it’s mainly a habit.”
Sabra Schlepphorst, 59, wore her black-and-white striped face mask as she cautiously navigated her way through the crowded Bath & Body Works store in South Coast Plaza.
She craves normalcy, but is hesitant to ditch her mask and other safety precautions because she is immunocompromised and only recently received approval from her doctor to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Schlepphorst said she hopes people will avoid “Karen situations” and remain respectful whether they wear a mask or not.
“If it’s hot, the first thing you want to do is rip it off,” she said. “Be aware. Be respectful.”
When Caroline Nazaryfar entered South Coast Plaza on Tuesday, she was surprised to see the majority of shoppers at the Orange County mall wearing face coverings. Only a few strolled the halls without one, though some held them in hand.
The Mission Viejo resident admitted it gave her some anxiety, but she believed she could lead by example, opting out of wearing a mask because she knew it was no longer a state mandate.
“I don’t need to wear a face mask anymore,” the registered nurse said. “I feel like we’re making progress.”
She said it’ll take a few days until people realize such COVID-19 protocols are no longer necessary.
Nazaryfar visited 10 stores on her day off from work. Zara was the only one that stopped her. As she walked inside, a sales associate approached, asking her to wear a mask.