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Workers worry about safety and stress as states simplify mask rules

AC EXXON, Mississippi (AP) – Leo Carney worries that larger crowds can eat without masks at the seafood restaurant in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he runs the kitchen. Maribel Cornejo, who works for $ 9.85 as a McDonald’s chef in Houston, can not afford to get sick, and employees will find it easier to wear masks, even though the fast food company demands them.

As more powers are added to Texas, Mississippi, and other states to remove masked mandates and ease business restrictions, many potential employees, including bartenders, restaurant servers, and retailers, are exempt from changes that may help the economy, but they are concerned. that they can do less. safe against the backdrop of an epidemic that health professionals warn is not over.

Many businesses on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were pleased that Governor Tate Reeves had decided to lift mask requirements, restaurant seat restrictions, and other mandatory restrictions. “But the workers themselves, especially those with pre-existing conditions, are now scared,” Carney said.

“It just puts us in a situation where we are at the forefront, again at gunpoint,” said Carney, who sees the Mississippi as the biggest risk from Wednesday’s decision. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Latin American population in the United States, and many restaurants on the Coast have a significant number of employees.

Public health experts following the trail of more contagious versions of the virus have warned that restrictions that could be lifted too soon could lead to another deadly wave of infections. Although vaccine carriers are accelerating as drug manufacturers increase production, many potential workers are still not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in other Mississippi states.

On Friday, the Alabama State Department of Health advised residents to back down on standard infection prevention recommendations, even though the governor is allowing the state mask mandate to expire next month.

“There is nothing magical about April 9. “We do not want the public to think that this is the day when we will all stop taking precautions,” said Scott Harris, a public health officer.

The governors of Iowa, Montana, and North Dakota have also suspended the masks or plan to suspend them soon. On Friday, the governor of South Carolina revoked an executive order requiring face masks in government offices and restaurants, leaving state administrators and restaurant operators to develop their own guidelines.

Governors in several other states, including Michigan and Louisiana, have eased operating restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses in recent days.

The National Retail Federation, the largest retailer in the United States, issued a statement on Wednesday encouraging buyers to wear masks. Some retail chains, including Target Albert Supermarket Operator Albertson, intend to continue to demand them from both customers and employees in the states, which no longer make them mandatory.

George Orge Kelemen, president and CEO of the Texas Retail Association, said he believed many members would continue to demand that employees, but not mandatory customers, wear masks or other protective clothing.

“Retailers know their customers best,” he said.

MacDonald, a 43-year-old chef from Cornelon, says the end of his Texas mask mandate next week is alarming as several of his employees are already worried about keeping their faces covered. He said employees who asked to withdraw their masks from the nose were politely accepted, but not always long.

“There is just a different attitude,” said Cornejo, whose 19-year-old son began working as a cashier at the same restaurant to help pay for family bills. “Some say it’s very difficult to keep for eight hours, especially when it heats up.”

Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, encouraged Americans to “do the right thing” by continuing to advocate for regular use of masks and social distance, even if their states lift restrictions.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, says masked people still risk disinfection from masked stores and restaurants. He called Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions from March 10 “too soon, too carefree.”

Although deaths և newly confirmed cases across the country fell from their January highs, they are still high, while outbreaks have risen in recent weeks in some states. In Mississippi, for example, the 7-day moving average of positive virus activity rose from 11.47% on February 19, to 12.14% on March 5, and the state’s 7-day average daily death on March 5. It grew from 15 in the same period. daily up to 20.71 daily.

Employees of companies that still have a masked mandate or work in companies that follow their own virus prevention rules expect that their managers’ actions encourage discouragement from customers, and warn against taking precautions.

Molly Brooks, 25, a barrister at a Texas Farms branch coffee shop, said she regularly dealt with customers who came out or intimidated her colleagues when asked to wear a mask. Brooks is worried about how they are going to enforce the rule that the coffee shop intends to follow, now that the Texas governor has abolished the state mask mandate.

“We are preparing for the emotional damage it will do for us,” said the 25-year-old barista, who started working in a coffee shop in November looking for a job in education. “People who do not want to wear them are still going to fight … And now they will have even more ammunition.”

Square Miss Books in Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi, will require masks; only eight clients are allowed at a time. Although CEO Lynn Roberts believes the rules will make many customers feel safe, Paul Fike, a bookstore employee, said he noticed a change in Oxford almost immediately after the Aldermen board decided to step down and ousted the college town mask.

“I mean, really, even when you go home, you can kind of see that there are places where it was a win-win for a lot of people,” he said on Thursday, the day after the Oxford mask demand ended. “They were happy to be fired.”

Still, some employees cautiously hope that fewer restrictions will bring more clients, tips, and job security in three years to a year shorter.

In San Francisco, where the mayor announced last week that he would return to a closed dining room, reopen cinemas and gyms, Dino Keres had a hard time getting a drink from customers sitting at Sam’s Grill bar.

This is partly because he was going to get his second vaccine dose, but also because he had a short time allowed to have an internal dinner last fall and no one on staff was infected. Moreover, masks are required as long as people do not eat, and the interior seats are limited to 25% capacity.

“We’ve been through it once before, now is the time to try again,” Keres said on Thursday.

Ro Hart, assistant general manager of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco, says the return of a closed-door dinner in the city is a mixture of joy and anxiety.

“We are happy to make more money, but we are also a little nervous, because we have to be more strict, making sure that everyone wears a mask when they do not eat,” said Hart, adding that he is very more worried if San Francisco did not require masks.

“We feel for our brothers and sisters in all those restaurants in Texas,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Alexandra Olson և Joseph’s Pizan in New York; David Koenig in Dallas; DN Durbin in Ann Arbor, Michigan; և Tammy Weber in Fenton, Michigan, contributed to this story.

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