Food, beverage workers rally Monday for mask mandate to stay, more access to COVID-19 vaccine

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Groups including restaurant and bar workers who want Gov. Greg Abbott to keep the mask mandate in place will rally outside the Texas Capitol building at 1 p.m. Monday.

The rally, organized by the Amplified Sound Coalition and Austin’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, is aimed at reclassifying workers in the food and beverage industry as essentials and getting them access to COVID-19 vaccinations. They want the mask mandate to stay in place until 70% of workers in the industry are vaccinated, Jeannette Gregor with the Amplified Sound Coalition said.

She said it will put bartenders and other workers in a precarious and potentially dangerous position once the mandate is lifted Wednesday.

“I can’t stand behind my bar and say it’s a state mandate,” Gregor said to KXAN’s Jennifer Sanders on Friday. “I have to say that’s the position the bar I’m working in is taking, and now it becomes that much more of a debate.”

As the mask mandate comes closer to expiring, more businesses have taken a stance on requiring masks, most notably grocery chain H-E-B. On Friday, store officials went from “strongly encouraging” customers to wear masks while in stores to requiring them.

Randall’s will also require customers to wear a mask, along with a number of other stores in Central Texas.

When Abbott made the announcement that he would lift the mandate, he said it’s “no longer needed” and removing the mandate “does not end personal responsibility when it comes to caring for family, friends and the community.”

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