“I had a cousin pass away in Rose Hill from COVID, you know, so it’s close to home,” said Wichita resident Jeff Darge.

Darge said, like many, he’s tired of wearing masks but has followed the rules closely after losing a family member to COVID-19.

He and other Wichita residents like Jeffrey Garrison were ecstatic to hear the news Thursday that the CDC is loosening its mask restrictions.

“I think that’s great. Great. It’s about time,” said Darge.

“I’m just extremely happy that we’re going to be able to stop wearing the masks if you’re fully vaccinated,” said Garrison.

The new guidance says fully vaccinated people can ditch social distancing and masks just about anywhere, even if crowded indoors. If you’re not vaccinated, the CDC says you should still mask up.

But it begs the question, can businesses legally enforce it?

“It’s important to remember that private businesses have always had the right to impose non-invidiously discriminatory requirements upon their customers,” said Wichita lawyer Dan Monnat.

Monnat said businesses have every right to enforce the new guidelines by asking customers who don’t want to wear masks to show proof of vaccination. He said he could only think of one scenario where a business could get into hot legal water.

“I think it gets complicated if a business wants to refuse service to someone who cannot be vaccinated because of a disability,” said Monnat.

But even then, Monnat said the business could simply ask the customer to wear a mask instead.

People like Darge and Garrison say they think it’s a big step in the right direction.

“Hopefully, people can get back to normal because it’s been a stress and strain, no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re working or whether you’re not working,” said Garrison.

“Yay, like, it’s light at the end of the tunnel. You know, I was hoping this day would come in that we would not have to wear masks and get back to normal, and maybe you see social distancing and stuff like that also,” said Darge.

The City of Wichita issued this statement in response to the new guidelines Thursday:

The City of Wichita is closely reviewing revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines issued today, Thursday, May 13, 2021, and is conferring with local officials, including the Sedgwick County Health Department, to evaluate best practices to ensure the health and safety of the public and city employees.

City facilities, including City Hall, will continue to require the use of face masks and the practicing of safe social distancing protocols while we further evaluate public health guidance.

The City strongly encourages every resident to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine is free with no appointment necessary. Find COVID-19 vaccination information here: https://www.sedgwickcounty.org/covid-19/vaccine/

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