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Here we go again. North Texas businesses ponder mask policies as CDC guidance changes

Local store and restaurant owners contemplate response to CDC recommendations that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors.

DALLAS — Sometimes Denise Manoy catches herself dreaming of days that were predictable.

But it’s been a long time since those days existed.

The owner of Indigo 1745, a boutique in Dallas’s Bishop Arts district, has faced more struggles than she thought possible in the last 18 months: shutdowns, a partial reopening, capacity limits, an historic winter storm, a major labor shortage, and – perhaps the most tiresome of all – making customers wear masks.

"We have learned to roll with the punches and just go with whatever we’ve been dealt,” said Manoy.

Tuesday brought another blow when the CDC announced a change in guidance.

The CDC now recommends even fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in places with high or substantial spread of COVID.

RELATED: Updated CDC guidance: Where are masks indoors recommended again?

North Texas falls into that category.

The recommendation is forcing business owners like Manoy to make the difficult decision of whether to make masks mandatory for customers again.

“I was surprised it was just a suggestion,” Manoy said of the CDC's guidelines.

She’s been closely watching COVID case numbers and hospitalizations increase as the delta variant rapidly spreads across North Texas and the rest of the country, so she said she figured the mask guidance was coming.

W. Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council, acknowledged that store and restaurant owners are in a precarious position, particularly in Texas, so he isn't sure making masks mandatory would work.

“I think a mask mandate brings with it people that really have strong feelings in both ways,” he said.

But because public health is in danger, he said highly encouraging masks for customers while requiring them for employees would be a good way forward.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott says there will be no more mask mandates

“If you wear a mask, you’ll help lighten the workload of the frontline healthcare workers,” he said, adding that COVID hospitalizations have tripled in the last 30 days in the region that encompasses North Texas.

CDC guidelines about masks have changed several times during the pandemic but that’s to be expected, Love said, because knowledge about the virus has grown and expanded.

While Governor Greg Abbott has banned government-enforced mask mandates, individual stores can make masks mandatory inside their establishment.

But then it’s up to employees to enforce those policies.

RELATED: VIDEO: Woman throws food in Dallas grocery store after workers ask her to wear a mask

The Texas Retailers Association said when that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of frontline retail workers, a tough job is made even more difficult.

“Retailers are going to follow whatever the mandates are from either the county or the state. But when it’s voluntary or recommended, then retailers are going to do what they feel best for their customers and employees,” said Gary Huddleston of the Texas Retailers Association.

“It’s a balancing act and we just ask for common sense.”

In the hours after the CDC announced its revised guidance, Manoy wasn’t quite sure what her next move would be.

“I think I’m going to have to sleep on it a little bit before I decide,” she said.

“It’s the weirdest time we’ve seen in our lives, but we’re going to continue to make the best of it. That’s all we can do.”

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