Minnesota businesses on Friday scrambled to adjust to the swift and unexpected end to state mask mandates for fully vaccinated people, with some moving quickly to ease restrictions.
Cub Foods supermarkets, Walmart and Costco are among those that have immediately dropped face-covering requirements for vaccinated customers.
The Minnesota Twins and the Mall of America were among those saying they would "strongly encourage" mask use in some areas, while national retailers such as Target and Best Buy planned to maintain current rules.
Gov. Tim Walz on Friday lifted a statewide mask requirement a day after federal health officials said mask-wearing is not needed by vaccinated people in most circumstances.
Businesses may set their own policies, as can cities, which added to the confusion of a hectic year in which workers and customers were expected to comply.
The Mall of America in Bloomington on Friday said its staff will still be required to wear masks as will members of the public who visit the Nickelodeon Universe amusement area. Mall officials now will merely encourage shoppers to wear masks and to follow rules of individual stores.
Minneapolis-based Target Corp. plans to continue all of its coronavirus safety measures in all stores, including masks and social distancing, while reviewing updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spokesman Brian Harper-Tibaldo said in an e-mailed statement.
Richfield-based Best Buy said it also is "having discussions and reviewing its policies."
Other large retailers such as Home Depot and CVS also are keeping the restrictions in place for now, the companies told the Washington Post. Trader Joe's will no longer require masks in states where the mandates have been lifted and will not be asking for proof of vaccinations.
"We are vigilant; reviewing federal, state and local health advisories; meeting or exceeding government mandates; and where it makes sense, adjusting efforts," Trader Joe's said on its website.
Walmart said in a memo to employees that its stores, including Sam's Club, will stop requiring masks for vaccinated employees and customers.
With vaccines shown to be effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus and reducing hospitalizations, the CDC said Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear face masks, indoors or outdoors, for most situations.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the full round of shots.
While businesses are allowed to mandate that their employees get vaccines, most are choosing to provide incentives for their workers to roll up their sleeves.
Despite caveats and exceptions, the lifting of masking requirements brings with it the hope of a return to more normal activities.
"It's going to be great to start seeing faces again!" said Steve Kalina, CEO of the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, in an e-mail.
Protecting employees remains a top priority, he added.
"Most of our manufacturers employ highly skilled employees that tend to be responsible individuals and operate in work centers that are often 15 to 20 feet apart, so they are at less risk in general," Kalina said.
"However, some manufacturers who operate production lines may choose to continue requiring masks for employees in close proximity."
Minnesota manufacturers, including Donaldson and Graco, said they still are sorting out the ambiguous messages from President Joe Biden, Walz and the CDC and how they fit with mask mandates in cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul, which have kept them in place.
Without a universal way to confirm vaccination status, the new guidelines hinge on an honor system.
Those who haven't gotten shots or who are not yet fully inoculated will be expected to willingly comply with mask-wearing rules at a time when face coverings have became politicized and the source of angry resistance by some.
Union leaders have expressed concerns for front-line workers, who have no way of knowing whether those they come into contact with have been fully vaccinated.
Some companies, such as Hopkins Center Drug, are leaving it up to employees to decide if they'd like to continue wearing masks.
But others, such as Lunds & Byerlys grocery stores, aren't backing off a requirement that staff and customers wear masks.
"For customers who prefer not to wear a face covering while shopping, we welcome the opportunity to serve you via our online shopping service at LundsandByerlys.com," the company said in a statement.
Life Time fitness clubs, with 150 locations in the U.S. and Canada, plan to follow state requirements and maintain cleaning protocols while urging those not fully vaccinated to wear masks.
At Evereve, the Edina-based chain of women's clothing stores, the company's top human resources and store executives huddled Friday morning to figure out how to adjust its store mask policies in light of the CDC's change in guidance.
They decided that the retailer will no longer require customers to wear masks in states and cities where there is no longer a mask mandate. The same goes for store workers who are fully vaccinated, but the company is asking employees who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks.
Mike Tamte, the company's co-CEO, said Evereve has been hearing from frustrated customers in other states where mask mandates have been lifted.
"They were like, 'I'm shopping somewhere else,' " Tamte said, adding that executives decided to continue requiring masks for the safety of employees even if it meant losing potential sales.
In light of the new guidance from the CDC, company leaders say that easing its mask requirement is the right thing to do.
"I celebrate it," he said. "I think the CDC's guidance is in line with what the data suggests and what science suggests. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated."
Staff writers Patrick Kennedy, Nicole Norfleet and Mary Lynn Smith contributed to this report.