The sign outside the Giant Food Store in Flourtown advises shoppers that masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated customers, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But that didn’t stop Canace Sforza, 31, a stay-at-home mother with two children, ages 3 and 5, from donning one.
“I am fully vaccinated, but I just think it’s been such an up and down journey in this whole pandemic,” said Sforza, of Lafayette Hill. “I don’t want to be sorry for not wearing a mask and perhaps spreading it. I don’t trust the CDC to know every single thing because this is so new.”
Others said they were comfortable losing the mask, as some venues have permitted for the first time in more than a year.
“I’m not too concerned about catching the virus now that I’ve been vaccinated and everybody in my house has,” Jim Hoyer, 54, of Wyndmoor, said as he left the Giant, sans mask, pushing his cart of groceries. He added that he’s been going to the store throughout the pandemic and has been impressed with how it vigorously enforced masking before the CDC lifted the restriction in mid-May.
But Hoyer, director of information technology for a local health system, said it did feel a little funny, being barefaced.
“It almost felt like I was missing something,” he said.
The Carlisle-based Giant food chain announced it would allow vaccinated patrons and employees to forgo masks as of May 19. The store wasn’t checking or asking people whether they have been vaccinated at the entrance; it appears to be an honor system. Midmorning on Monday, though, customers were still wearing masks by about a 3-1 ratio, a rough count showed.
» READ MORE: Pennsylvania mask mandate will lift June 28
In Pennsylvania, it’s a little bit confusing. Although the CDC said a couple of weeks ago that fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks in most indoor settings, Pennsylvania is keeping its masking rules in place for those outside of Philadelphia until June 28 or when 70% of the adult population is fully vaccinated. It’s unclear when Philadelphia will lift its indoor mask rules.
The state, however, did lift capacity limits Monday inside stores, restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, theaters, and some other venues, as well as crowd-size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.
Joe Piroso, owner of Mister P Pizza and Pasta, also in the Flourtown Shopping Center in Montgomery County, didn’t know for sure that the restrictions had been lifted.
“It’s so confusing,” he said.
But, he said, the guidance and government regulations aren’t really what matters anymore.
“By now, people are educated enough to know when to wear a mask,” he said. “It’s a matter of when people feel confident enough to go sit in a restaurant next to each other. It matters how people feel.”
Some customers, he said, still prefer curbside pickup.
It may be a person-by-person, day-by-day, or moment-by-moment decision.
Carl Mastromatto, 67, a self-employed painting contractor from Ambler, was wearing a mask on his way into the Giant. He said he would keep it on if others had theirs on, even though he is vaccinated.
“I feel uncomfortable” when not wearing a mask, he said. “Other people give me dirty looks.”
About a half-hour later, he came out of the store, still wearing his mask.
Darlene Saks, 64, a retired commercial artist from Dresher, was wearing a mask on her way into the Dollar Tree, also in the shopping center. She’s not vaccinated and doesn’t intend to get vaccinated, she said.
“I don’t trust it,” she said. Rather, she said she trusts God’s will.
As soon as stores say she doesn’t have to wear a mask, she won’t, she said.
“I’m not afraid,” she said.
The Hair Cuttery in the same shopping center still requires customers and workers to wear masks. But employee Robert Collete said he is looking forward to a day soon when they won’t have to.
“It will be less stressful,” he said.
Norman’s Hallmark store leaves the decision up to the customer if they are vaccinated.
“We wear them to make everybody comfortable,” said store manager Sam Wilson, who added that most customers are still wearing them.
She’s not sure when she’ll take hers off in the store.
“I’m used to it now,” she said. “I haven’t had a sinus infection in over a year.”
Sforza, the Giant shopper and stay-at-home mom, also isn’t sure when she will feel comfortable not wearing a mask at a grocery store.
“There’s something about the supermarket that makes me want to wear it,” she said. “It’s like a whisper from the beginning of the pandemic, how stressful it was to go to the supermarket. I think I’m still holding on to that.”