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Masks are coming off at local businesses

To mask or not to mask – that is the question. Because the number of COVID-19 cases has declined in recent weeks, ABD contacted local business leaders to find out if they have relaxed or even eliminated their mask policies.

When the pandemic officially hit the United States in March 2020, most grocery stores, retail shops, and restaurants required everyone, including employees, to wear a mask. While some national businesses haven’t changed their policies yet, many local businesses have.

Robyn Kelley, the owner of Trendz Salon located on Riverwatch Parkway in Martinez, said she no longer requires or recommends her employees and clients wear masks. But she and her staff occasionally make exceptions to that policy.

“If a client comes in with a mask, we will put one on as a courtesy,” Kelley said.

Like Kelley, Ginger Vintson, manager of Flowers on Broad in downtown Augusta, said the shop’s owners have nearly eliminated all mask requirements, but they’re willing to make exceptions based on customer requests.

“We only wear masks when customers request we wear them during deliveries,” Vintson said. “Our drivers keep masks in their cars.”

But salons and flower shops aren’t the only ones that have changed their policies. Restaurants have begun to follow suit.

Ramiro Galvan, owner, and manager of Taqueria El Rey, which has locations in Martinez and Grovetown, said he’s already eliminated mask requirements for his staff and diners.

“We don’t force them to wear face protection,” Galvan said. “About 90 percent of my employees have been vaccinated, and I’m not going to make the other 10 percent wear them either.”

Big box stores are also starting to adjust their policies in response to dwindling COVID numbers. Last month, Target officially released its revised policy. ABD reached out to the company’s media relations team and received a statement from a Target spokeswoman.

“As COVID-19 cases continue to decline throughout the country, Target will not require our U.S. team members or guests to wear masks, as local regulations allow,” the statement said. “We’ll follow all state and local COVID-19 safety regulations and encourage our team members and guests to consult the latest public health guidance, get vaccinated, and make decisions to keep themselves and their families safe.”

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