Businesses adjust as CDC releases updated mask policy

ATLANTA — Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can throw away those masks, some businesses may still require one on your face for now, and lawyers say that’s completely legal.

In a statement, Kroger told Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik it will not be changing its policy at the moment.

“The Kroger Family of Companies continues to require everyone in our stores to wear masks,” spokesman Felix Turner said in an email. “We are encouraging and incentivizing associate vaccinations by offering a $100 one-time payment to associates who receive the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. As we have throughout the pandemic, we are reviewing current safety practices, the CDC’s latest guidance, and soliciting feedback from associates to guide the next phase of our policy. Additionally, we continue to encourage everyone to practice social distancing and frequent hand washing as well as consider the use of no-touch grocery delivery or low-contact grocery pickup.”

Outside a Kroger in Roswell, customer Barry Corker said he supports the company’s position.

“I think it’s an individual company decision,” he said. “They’re privately owned, obviously, and they should have the ability to make that decision based upon their customer base, based upon their business model.”

Corker said he also supports the updated CDC guidance.

“It’s a step, I believe, to get us back to normal in our lives again and I don’t have a problem with that,” he said.

Customer Lee Copeland told Petchenik he will not go out in public without his mask on just yet.

“You feel safer having that mask on?” Petchenik asked.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Yes, I do.”

Up the street at Houck’s Grille in Roswell, general manager Scott Spilberg told Petchenik most of the customers who come into his restaurant are already not wearing masks, and he’s no longer requiring staff to wear them, per a previous governor’s order.

“We give them the option,” he said. “If you don’t feel comfortable without a mask, wear a mask.”

A spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz stadium told Petchenik that Atlanta United will modify its mask policy, effective at Saturday’s game:

“For the Atlanta United match on May 15, we will follow the updated CDC guidelines stating that it is safe to attend indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask, as well as updated guidelines received from Major League Soccer. Recognizing that all fans may not be fully vaccinated at this time, masks are recommended for entry into Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Per league protocols, masks are required to access field-level seating and patio spaces, and will be provided for those who do not have one. We will continue to follow guidelines set forth by the CDC and public health agencies, and will evaluate on a match-by-match basis.”

The Atlanta Hawks have limited capacity at State Farm Arena, but a spokesman told Petchenik they will adhere to current NBA guidelines, which will require masks at game.

A spokeswoman for the Atlanta Braves told Petchenik the team was taking the new guidance under advisement and would release new guidelines for Truist Park as early as Monday.

Attorney Sheri Oluyemi told Petchenik a business is well within its right to continue requiring masks on its premises.

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“They absolutely can,” she said. “Because there are various situations where masks are still necessary and are still mandated.”

Oluyemi said despite CDC guidance, the Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA) still requires COVID-19 safety measures in some cases, as well.

“OSHA has said that masks are necessary. They have a COVID enforcement plan that requires physical distancing, as well as masks,” she said. “OSHA has not changed their rules overnight. The guidelines took several months to be released in the first place. So it is going to take some time for OSHA to change those guidelines. So in the meantime, a lot of employers will probably just keep the masks in place because like I said, there may be a local rule or a federal one like OSHA that is requiring them to keep the masks in place until further instructions are released.”