It's one of the more visible signs of our return to normal.

By Tim Nelson
May 17, 2021
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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recent proclamation that fully vaccinated individuals can resume pre-pandemic activities without masks or social distancing, the blanket announcement prompted mixed reactions. Sure, it's great for those who've properly been fully vaccinated, but what does it mean for businesses and their policies — especially given that there's no easy way to tell who's really vaccinated. 

Just as when states like Texas rolled abc their mask mandates earlier in 2021, certain businesses are stepping in to clarify their policies. Chief among them is Costco, who's updated their store policies to reflect the latest CDC guidance. 

According to a May 14 post on their website, Costco announced that they would "allow members and guests who are fully vaccinated to enter Costco without a face mask or face shield" in states or jurisdictions that have done away with their mask mandate. Costcos located in states that still have a mask mandate in place will defer to state and local regulations. California, Hawaii, and a smattering of Northeastern states still have (at least indoor) mask mandates in effect, though likely not for too much longer given CDC recommendations and vaccination progress. For example, embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the state's mask mandate is set to lift on Wednesday, May 19. 

Other stores taking similar stances include Trader Joe's, Sam's Club, and Walmart, with more sure to qualify their policies along similar lines soon enough. Walmart's statement also mentioned that fully vaccinated employees will not be required to mask up as of May 18. Target similarly will not require fully vaccinated employees or customers to wear masks in-store.

Of course, the potential drawback of easing these mask mandates for shoppers is that they're reliant on the honor system. Costco says they "will not require proof of vaccination," but "ask for members' responsible and respectful cooperation." Announcements from other retailers made no mention of proof of vaccination. In a perfect world that wouldn't be much of an issue. If we've learned anything over the past year, however, it's that a few unvaccinated bad actors will surely try and take advantage of a policy like this. At least they'll really only be putting themselves (and others lying about their vaccination status) at risk. 

So if you were waiting for a more visible sign that life is returning to normal, this is it. You might not be able to go on the international vacation of your dreams just yet, but the good news is that you can at least grocery shop without your face covered up for the first time in a long time. Just don't be surprised if it feels a little weird at first.