To mask or unmask? South Shore businesses will leave it up to customers come Saturday – The Patriot Ledger

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WEYMOUTH — Starting on Saturday, vaccinated people who work out at the Weymouth Club will be able to breathe a little easier as the gym lifts  its mask mandate to align with state regulations.

But Cassaundra Kapinos, the club’s membership director, said that 17 high-tech air sanitizing machines, partitions between equipment and a reservation system for group classes will stay in place.

“The reason we’re making masks optional is because of the investment we made to ensure safety,” she said. “We feel super-confident in our ability to maintain a safe environment.”

The state’s COVID-19 restrictions and capacity limits will be lifted Saturday as part of the transition to post-pandemic life, more than 14 months after the implementation of emergency regulations. 

Masks will no longer be required by the state in most circumstances, though the Department of Public Health still urges unvaccinated residents to wear face coverings in indoor settings. 

Since the state does not have any type of vaccine verification system, whether to mask or not will largely rely on the honor system.

Masks will still be required on public and some private transportation, inside public schools and child care programs, at health care facilities and offices and in congregate care settings such as assisted living facilities.

Gov. Charlie Baker said communities that want to keep restrictions, such as a mask mandate, in place can do so. Businesses can also continue to require masks for customers or employees.

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Trader Joe’s, Target, Starbucks, Walmart and many other national retailers have announced that masks will essentially become optional starting Memorial Day weekend where state and local regulations allow. 

With masks becoming optional, some people will opt to keep wearing one at least for the time being. Mike Vargus, 40, of Quincy, said he will continue to wear a mask when in stores and other indoor public places for at least another six weeks or so.

“I am vaccinated, but I don’t want to risk being an asymptomatic carrier,” he said.

Quincy-based Stop & Shop will no longer require those who are fully vaccinated to wear masks in stores starting May 29, although the company “strongly encourages” everyone to do so. The store will still require masks for staff providing and customers receiving vaccinations in pharmacies.

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“Stop & Shop is continuing to implement enhanced cleaning protocols and safety measures across all states in which we operate,” the company said in a statement. “Per CDC and state guidelines, people who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks and social distance.”

Leo Keka, owner of Alba restaurants in Quincy and Hanover, said he’s confident that people will do the right thing for their individual circumstances and he plans to lift the mask requirement for patrons and staff. 

In March, Keka worked with Weymouth’s Brewster Ambulance to coordinate a voluntary vaccine clinic for his staff, which more than 100 members took advantage of. He said knowing so many staff members are vaccinated is comforting. 

“Obviously the main concern has always been our staff. Our staff has been great through this and without our staff we wouldn’t have a restaurant,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure our staff is safe and our guests are safe. We feel we’re in a better place and everyone is comfortable with lifting the restrictions.”