New mask guidelines create confusion for restaurants


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re fully vaccinated, you will soon no longer be required to wear a mask indoors in the state of Michigan.

The state is following suit with federal health officials, lifting requirements for fully vaccinated people to wear masks in most situations. The new rules from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services go into effect at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Businesses have the final say on whether they’ll allow fully vaccinated people to enter their buildings without a mask, but the new mask guidelines are confusing restaurant owners.

“I would say ‘confused’ is what best describes where we’re at right now,” said Chris Andrus, the co-owner of The Mitten Brewing Company in Grand Rapids. “Nobody expected this, nobody knows how to exactly interpret it.”

Andrus is confused because the state hasn’t given precise guidelines on how to verify if someone is fully vaccinated. 

“The thing I’m most worried about is having to be vaccine police,” Andrus said. “We have no way of knowing, no mechanism to determine whether or not someone is telling the truth, if they have been vaccinated or not, certainly people will say they are, just to get in, I don’t know. I don’t relish having to be COVID police.”

With no precise guidelines, the baseball-themed microbrewery will enforce a mask rule for all customers and employees inside The Mitten. 

“The best thing we have right now is the change in weather,” Andurus said. “We’re fortunate to have this outdoor space, and we’re going to point any guests who have an issue with masks out here.”

Under the state’s new guidelines, people who haven’t received a COVID-19 shot are not required to wear a mask outdoors. Then on July 1, all state mask orders will be lifted — regardless of your vaccination status. 

At MeXo in downtown Grand Rapids, masks for guests who are fully vaccinated will not be required inside the restaurant. 

“If they are fully vaccinated, we are not going to refuse service,” said executive chef Oscar Moreno. “But we suggest they wear a mask.”

Like Andrus, Moreno thinks it’s going to be hard to tell who is fully vaccinated and who isn’t. 

“It is not clear yet,” said Moreno. “Just as a restaurant, as employees, we are going to still wear a mask and not refuse service if a patron is fully vaccinated.”

Even though mask requirements are being lifted Saturday, you’ll still have to follow any rules set by your local government, your workplace (the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has yet to issue updated guidance), or instituted by a business.

— staff contributed to this report

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