The Crusader Newspaper Group
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Forget about the CDC – Black Chicago is keeping the masks on

The cash registers are humming and employees are returning to offices. In Chicago’s Black community, business is surging at some Black-owned restaurants and businesses as the city continues to reopen with fewer restrictions, declining coronavirus infections and rising vaccination rates.

With the Lollapalooza music festival back on and Buckingham Fountain set to be turned on this weekend, life seems to be returning to normal throughout the city. After more than a year of being shut down by the pandemic, Chicago is marching towards its goal of fully reopening by July 4.

At Millennium Park and on the Mag Mile, many people are ditching their face masks in some stores and restaurants, after Chicago joined other cities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in following guidelines that state masks are no longer required for people who have been fully vaccinated.

Time to throw away the masks, right? Target, Walmart, Costco, and Trader Joe’s scrapped their mask policies in recent days. But in Chicago’s Black community, residents and businesses say not so fast.

As many celebrate and return to normal lives, the Crusader spoke with residents who are still covering their faces and businesses that are keeping signs reminding patrons to mask up and practice social distancing in check-out lines at supermarkets and restaurants.

This week, a Crusader reporter visited three supermarkets and three restaurants in various neighborhoods on the South Side. All still required patrons to wear masks and practice social distancing, despite the city and the CDC’s new recommendations.

Ain’t She Sweet Café, a popular eatery in Bronzeville still did not have in-person dining service on Wednesday, as a long line of customers in masks waited to place their orders.

At another Bronzeville eatery, Peach’s Restaurant on 47th Street, a sign that greeted customers at the door read, “Please don’t forget your face mask!”

At the Hair Experts II barbershop across the street, a barber said customers are still required to wear masks and will not be served if they refuse.

At Daley’s Restaurant in Woodlawn, several signs telling patrons to wear masks were still up. However, a Crusader reporter observed that some patrons did not wear masks when they were waiting in line to pay or just talking before their food arrived.

In South Shore, the Local Market Foods in Jeffrey Plaza, had its popular hot foods buffet open, but patrons were still required to wear gloves, in addition to wearing a mask, before serving themselves.

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A SIGN GREETS Jewel-Osco customers in Woodlawn, requiring them to wear masks. (Photo by Keith Chambers)

At Jewel-Osco in Woodlawn at 61st and Cottage Grove, a sign at the front entrance said masks were required.

While businesses still have the option of keeping their mask policies in place, the CDC guidelines have left many Americans confused as to whose guidelines to follow. But some Blacks the Crusader spoke to say they are keeping their mouths and noses covered regardless of whose guideline it is.

Tracy Abrams, a customer at Woodlawn’s Jewel-Osco , said he will continue to wear his mask no matter what the CDC and the city say.

“I’m still wearing my mask,” said Abrams, who will get his second Moderna shot in the coming days. “If you’re vaccinated, I think you still should be cautious because you still can catch it again.”

Abrams said the CDC’s announcement of lifting its mask recommendation came too soon.

“When you start having these big events and everybody is wearing masks, I think it should be ok.”

Lisa B., who was also shopping at Jewel-Osco, said “I’m wearing my masks everywhere and at all times. I’m vaccinated, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally safe.”

Another customer, Steve Thompson-Bey, who received his two-shot Moderna vaccine, said “At this point in time, I would still wear a mask.”

Thompson-Bey said he does not wear a mask during his daily jogs in his neighborhood.

The city still requires residents to wear masks when using public transportation, in schools, jails and city of Chicago buildings.

Indoor diners in Chicago can now order without masking up, once they are two weeks out from their final vaccination shot.

The new guidelines have many business owners reluctant to ask customers about their vaccination status.

This week, Chicago announced that Lollapalooza will return this summer in Grant Park with no restrictions or capacity limits.

Hip-hop singer Megan Thee Stallion is among many artists expected to perform. Spectators must show their vaccination cards before entering the concert area.

The National Nurses United is cautioning against easing restrictions. The union held a press conference May 19, 2021, to discuss what it claims is faulty science behind the CDC’s new guidelines on wearing masks.

They said the studies cited by the CDC are incomplete and believe people should keep their masks on—vaccinated or not—to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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