‘People are generally happier’: Oakland adjusts to new CDC guidelines

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Joy Cao | Senior Staff Photographer

While the CDC said fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear face coverings in most indoor settings, some people are nervous about removing their masks.

By Colm Slevin, Staff Writer

While CDC guidelines say fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear face coverings in most indoor settings, Stacey Ngo, a sophomore chemical engineering major, said she’s unsure about the safety of not wearing masks since not everyone has gotten vaccinated yet and some people may not be truthful about their vaccination status.

“I was kinda skeptical at first,” Ngo said. “Because obviously not everyone is vaccinated. I work at Starbucks and a few days ago a group of kids came in without masks and we overheard that they were not vaccinated.”

While Gov. Tom Wolf plans to lift the mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals in indoor settings on June 28, or when 70% of Pennsylvania residents receive their second shot, University spokesperson Kevin Zwick said Pitt has not made any changes to their mask protocol for indoor spaces in response to this decision.

“The University’s health rules have not yet changed,” Zwick said. “The University is reviewing evolving guidance and will make changes as appropriate for our overall population. We continue to encourage every member of the Pitt community to get vaccinated.”

While Pitt’s mask protocol for indoor spaces has not changed, vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear face coverings when on campus outdoors, according to an email announcement sent Friday afternoon. The new mask protocol — which took effect Monday — still requires all individuals to continue wearing face coverings inside University buildings.

“Some people will continue to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status as a matter of individual preference and comfort. Please have patience for yourself and for others as we navigate these changes,” the announcement said.

Tommy Moore, a junior statistics and machine learning double major at Carnegie Mellon University, said not requiring fully vaccinated people to wear masks was a good thing. Moore said he thinks Pittsburghers are happier to be able to go out without masks.

“A lot of my friends have been going clubbing more often,” Moore said. “So people have been going out more. I think they are generally happier.”

Ngo said she has seen more parties and events now in Oakland than there were when more students were on campus during the academic year. Ngo said some off-campus parties don’t care about vaccinations or masks now that the CDC guidelines have changed.

“I feel like now, everyone feels like it doesn’t matter anymore,” Ngo said. “That’s why there’s more events and parties. Some don’t require masks and don’t ask if you’re vaccinated, and others only want people who are fully vaccinated.”

But nightlife isn’t the only place where more people are not wearing masks. Moore said he has seen few restaurants and stores in Oakland that still require masks.

“It’s definitely not as rigid as it once was. I went to dinner yesterday and they didn’t even require masks,” Moore said. “It’s actually really interesting. They’re just like, ‘Oh, you probably have a vaccine’ and no one in the restaurant wore masks. The only restaurant I’ve been to the last couple of days, I went to a lot of restaurants and my grandpa, the only one [I went to] which still required a mask, was Millie’s.”

While many stores around Oakland have stopped requiring masks, Caliban Books on Craig Street are continuing with their mask requirement. Bill Oliver, an assistant manager, said the store has not changed many of their COVID-19 procedures yet following the lift of the mask mandate, but have eased their occupancy limit.

“For a lot of the pandemic we were leaving our door locked, and letting people in,” Oliver said. “We had people knock and then we would let them in. We stopped doing that, we are leaving the door unlocked and we let people come in as they please. Our intention is to wait a few weeks and reassess the mask requirement.”

Despite many businesses struggling with lack of in-person sales over this past winter, Oliver said there has been an increase in sales following the CDC’s new mask guidance.

“It’s better than it was last year just because around this time last year I think it was still fairly early on and there were a lot of unknowns,” Oliver said. “I’m not even entirely sure we had opened back up yet by this point last year. Over the holiday weekend we were fairly busy, I guess. Part of that has to be because people are starting to travel now, you know, or, people are more comfortable leaving the house.”

Ngo thinks the vaccines and the CDC’s new mask guidance have caused many people to no longer worry about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Everyone feels like COVID doesn’t exist anymore,” Ngo said. “And they’re not worried about getting infected because of the vaccines.”

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