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Detroit Restaurants, Vaccinated Diners Are Keeping Masks on Despite New Guidance

The Friday announcement in Michigan that masks were optional for some vaccinated individuals sowed confusion over the weekend 

A woman walks out of the door at McShane’s next to a sign that warns about mask policies. Christian Gerard

The dozen customers outside of Dutch Girl Donuts on Saturday afternoon all had on masks as they waited to get into the tiny Detroit donut shop. So did the ones waiting at Trader Joe’s in Royal Oak, and at M Street Baking in Howell.

Under a new order, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on Friday, May 14, that Michiganders who are outdoors will no longer need to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. While indoors, fully vaccinated Michiganders will no longer need to mask up, but many restaurants are still requiring coverings and haven’t removed signs from their doors. The guidance followed a similar announcement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, May 13.

Yet, the revised masking guidance to come unexpectedly for restaurants and diners. They weren’t ready.

“Regardless of state regulations and CDC, [Good Cakes and Bakes] will require a mask to be worn by everyone inside our bakery until further notice, the Detroit bakery posted on social media. Eastern Market Brewing Co. said it wouldn’t immediately be altering its policy either. “Changing guidance that directly impacts the health and safety of our employees with less than 24 hours notice, on a Friday, is unacceptable,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.

All over metro Detroit, restaurants still had signs in the window asking customers to keep their masks on, and rushed to social media to ask customers to stay masked. They didn’t have to tell people like Valerie Jackson, of the University District, who was masked outside Dutch Girl Donuts.

“It’s a bit too sudden and soon. They’re too many variants mutating. Why take the chance?” Jackson, who says she’d received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine, said.

Would restaurants check credentials to verify if a diner was vaccinated? The honor system was unclear, and made some restaurateurs uncomfortable.

Urbanrest Brewing in Ferndale said it would still require masks. “At this time our policies will remain in place as we collectively formulate a plan and transition to the next phase of service in the taproom. Please be patient with us, it’s not easy for any organization to make decisions on the health and safety of the community and our staff at the drop of a hat, and without any guidance from the proper authorities,” it posted on Facebook.

Major supermarket chains Kroger and Meijer will still require customers to wear face masks inside their stores, even after Michigan’s health department and federal health officials change in mandates. At the Meijer in Allen Park, customers were compliant Saturday, May 15, the day the mandate took effect, even doubling-up on masks.

“In order to help ensure the continued health and safety of all its team members and customers, Meijer continues to require face coverings by anyone entering a Meijer store or MeijerExpress station at all locations, except where medical conditions prevent them from wearing one,” the company said Friday in a statement.

Walmart and Trader Joe’s said vaccinated customers don’t have to mask up, but Georgina Jones of Detroit did at the Trader Joe’s in Royal Oak anyway.

“We’ve lost too many people out here to this virus to let our guard down so soon. I’m ignoring this. How will they know who’s been vaccinated or not? If wearing a mask if I’m vaccinated is performative, then I’m performing.”

In Detroit, just 33.7 percent of residents have had at least one COVID vaccine dose, compared to 53.1 percent statewide. Michigan’s mask mandate first went into effect in April 2020.

MDHHS Orders [Official]
MIOSHA Emergency Rules [Official]
What Are Michigan’s Current COVID-19 Rules for Restaurants and Bars? [ED]
What (and How) to Eat in Detroit During the Coronavirus Pandemic [ED]
Gov. Whitmer Unveils Plan That Ties Michigan Restaurant Capacity to Vaccination Rates
All Coronavirus Coverage [E]