CALLAHAN, Fla. – Even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxes mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, Northeast Florida residents have mixed feelings about the new guidance.
That split was evident on Monday afternoon at the Winn-Dixie in Callahan, where some shoppers could be seen wearing masks while others were not. The Florida-based grocery chain has joined a growing list of stores now allowing vaccinated customers to shop without masks.
“Dear valued customers, in accordance with CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated customers and associates are no longer required to wear masks in our stores,” reads a sign posted outside Winn-Dixie’s Callahan location. “Masks are still required for those not fully vaccinated.”
News4Jax spoke with a few shoppers about the new guidance and how that would affect them moving forward. As it turns out, some shoppers said they plan to continue wearing masks in public even after getting the COVID-19 vaccine. For some, it offers peace of mind.
“I wear it for me, not you,” said Winston Harper, a Nassau County resident who’s been vaccinated.
Harper said he feels the same way when it comes to children, many of whom are now eligible to get the shot now that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use among children ages 12 and up.
“If it was mine, my grandchild, they’re coming into my front door, they getter go back to the car,” he said. “They need to have a mask. I want to at least see it come into the house.”
Ken Hall, a North Carolina resident who’s in town visiting friends and family, said he doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to wear a mask while running errands now that doing so is no longer required of people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“I am fully vaccinated,” Hall told News4Jax. “It’s really not an issue for myself.”
Similarly, Hall said he’s not concerned about children wearing masks, especially given that the disease tends to cause more severe illness among seniors and those with underlying conditions.
“It’s not really a children’s problem, so I don’t really see a need,” he added.
Dr. Maria Gutierrez, a physician who specializes in internal medicine, recommends that people take their personal comfort level into consideration.
“What I am telling all of my patients in the community is, do what makes you feel comfortable,” Dr. Gutierrez said. “If you’re not comfortable with your children still hanging out, because you don’t know who is vaccinated and who is not, just say ‘it’s for your own safety.’”
According to the latest CDC guidance, fully vaccinated people can resume normal activities in public without wearing a mask. But, the federal agency notes, people should still abide by workplace rules on the topic, as well as measures taken by individual businesses.
First doses of the Pfizer vaccines for children 12 and older began last week, meaning these children are not fully vaccinated at this time. As the CDC states, people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second dose of a two-dose vaccine.