Starbucks-drive-thru-contactless.JPG Starbucks
Starbucks employees will still be obligated to wear masks as restrictions for vaccinated Americans open up.

Starbucks and Chipotle begin loosening COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated customers

Both restaurant chains are still requiring employees to wear masks but vaccinated customers do not have to

Starbucks and Chipotle are two of the first national restaurant chains to drop mandatory mask policies for fully vaccinated customers, although mask requirements for employees and social distancing guidelines are still in effect.

Starbucks began making facial coverings optional for fully vaccinated customers on May 17, and Chipotle issued a similar policy making facial coverings optional for vaccinated customers, except for where required by law, around the same time.

Although Starbucks has loosened its COVID-19 policies for vaccinated customers, the chain’s restrooms “remain temporarily closed to the public in stores where the café or café seating is unavailable.”

“We all have a shared responsibility to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Starbucks said in a statement. “Starbucks continues to focus on prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners and customers, supporting health authorities and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of the virus, and showing up in a positive and responsible way to serve our communities.”

The announcements come on the heels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing COVID-19 restrictions for vaccinated Americans last Thursday. According to the updated guidance, fully vaccinated Americans who are two weeks past their final dose can resume activities they did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or social distancing (except for where required by local and state laws), and do not need to get tested or quarantine after traveling.

“We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a media briefing last week. “Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated."

Until this update, the CDC had recommended wearing a mask while dining in a restaurant, "particularly indoors and when speaking with restaurant workers and servers, except when actively eating or drinking." 

Following the release of this new national guidance, both Chipotle and Starbucks — along with other national retail chains including Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Target, and CVS — updated their guidance for customers. Other companies are likely to follow with their own updated safety measures.

At this point in the recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of states have relaxed or removed their mask requirements. New York is removing its mask mandates on Wednesday, while California is waiting until June 15. According to CDC data, 44.2% of American adults are fully vaccinated and 56.3% of American adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The seven-day average for positive COVID-19 cases nationwide has dropped by more than half over the past month.

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people should get tested if they exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

Contact Joanna at joanna.fantozzi@informa.com

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

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