ST. LOUIS — “From what I hear from this morning's sessions, people were very happy to take the mask off,” said Paul Schnapp, owner of CycleBar fitness studios in Creve Coeur and Richmond Heights.
He announced to customers Thursday night — before St. Louis County changed requirements — that they would no longer be enforcing a mask requirement after the CDC’s change in guidance. The email said that they will trust unvaccinated guests to continue masking, but they will not ask about their vaccination status.
“The last thing we want to do is be a police officer,” he said. “It is a bit of fresh air to have some of our individual rights returned to us.”
“I don't think we need a vaccine bouncer,” agreed Kyle Kohlmorgen at Wellspent Brewing Company. However, they’re going in the opposite direction, requiring guests and employees to continue masking.
“Right now, we're just moving slow and kind of methodically,” he said. “We're checking in with our customers to make sure that we're doing what's right for them.”
He says he's lucky they haven't dealt with as much COVID-19 safety pushback as other small businesses have seen — and fear will get worse.
“It's going to be tougher when you don't have city, state, federal mandates behind your own policies.”
With less than half the local population fully vaccinated, the owner of Apotheosis Comics says it's too soon for these policy changes.
“The majority of people in this state, in this city are not vaccinated,” said Martin Casas, who believes that is not enough to remove the mask requirement.
“This idea that it's my body, my choice doesn't really apply to viruses.”
He also says it’s important to consider those who need protection for whom a shot isn’t an option.
“We have kids coming here that can't get a vaccine and we can't risk our customers' health, my employees' health on chance like that,” he said.
Larger destinations and stores around St. Louis have announced they will keep up their mask policy for now, including the City Museum, West County Center and Six Flags.
“With less than 40% of the population vaccinated and no reliable way to know who has been vaccinated, our current safety protocols are in line with the latest CDC guidelines,” said a Six Flags spokesperson in a statement. “The safety and wellbeing of our guests and employees is always our top concern and we will continue to evaluate these measures and make changes as warranted.”
Don’t throw away your mask — and it could be a good idea to begin carrying a proof of vaccination, as St. Louis University Law Professor Rob Gatter confirms that it is legal for private businesses to ask people about their vaccination status and require masks accordingly. HIPAA does not apply here.