AUSTIN (KXAN) — Under Stage 4 COVID-19 guidelines, Austin Public Health strongly encourages everyone to wear a mask, even if they’re already vaccinated.
It’s not a mandate and will not be enforced, but the city hopes people and businesses will act to slow the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.
“Our business community has always stood with us and helped us get these things done. We’re again calling on everybody to put a mask on,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said during a press conference Friday.
The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance told KXAN it won’t necessarily be issuing masking recommendations to its members, because the group says it has always advocated adults and business owners should be able to do what they think is in their best interest.
Regardless of this new guidance from APH, the alliance thinks most of its members will continue with the mask policies they currently have in place.
Another local gym told KXAN they’ve been social distancing and disinfecting and will continue to do so but won’t be requiring masks, either.
Others are slowly moving toward more masks.
“I have definitely lost some family members to COVID this year — four, in fact — and so, it definitely hits close to home,” said Michael Zuniga, Shag Salon co-owner.
Like many Austin businesses, masks at Shag are optional for those who are fully vaccinated. But just weeks after instating that policy, Zuniga is reconsidering, as COVID-19 cases rise and public health officials ask everyone to mask up.
“We’re preparing to start requiring masks for all individuals entering the salon — both our staff and customers alike,” he said.
The Soup Peddler off North Lamar has already closed down its dining area the last couple days.
“We had had it back opened up in here so that people could sit in here for like, a couple of weeks. And yeah, it was kind of short lived,” said employee Hannah Williford.
She said owners are suggesting masks but still aren’t requiring them for workers or customers.
“We got an email just the other day that kind of said with the recent reports and with the request from [Mayor Steve] Adler, they’re starting to bring those back in,” Williford said.
Zuniga says it’s a lot harder to enforce masks without a state mandate to back businesses up, but he and his husband, also a co-owner, feel following the guidance will help ensure others don’t lose loved ones to the pandemic.
“We want to make sure that those that haven’t… had that experience, don’t. We don’t want to contribute to it,” he said.
Zuniga said they are reviewing their policies and coming up with a date on when to start requiring masks. They plan to post the new rules on social media and send appointment confirmation emails to clients. He said they’ll also have masks at the front desk in case customers forget them.