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San Diego businesses react to ever-changing mask guidance

Workplace Mask
Posted at 9:17 PM, Jul 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-30 17:10:49-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Within the last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's mask guidance has changed to recommend that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask while indoors.

The state of California and San Diego County have said they will follow suit with that recommendation.

For many small San Diego businesses, it has been a whirlwind keeping up with every mask guidance by federal, state and local levels. One local business says that it has been a challenge, but one with unexpected reward.

"We want our customers to come in feeling safe, regardless of what their status is of vaccination or not," shared Sarela Bonilla, store manager for the Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Market, a community cooperative in the heart of Ocean Beach.

With every new guidance, Bonilla has said they have responded quickly. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they have done everything from different checkout lines, to closing certain sections like the bulk and deli, to creating sanitation stations.

"We were expecting and had really good preparations for the June 15 reopening," said Wynston Estis, the store's general manager, "but once the mask requirement was eliminated ... All of a sudden we were like, 'Holy moley we have to spring into action yet again.'"

That came in the form of signs like what are currently plastered across the outside and inside of the grocer, asking customers to put on their mask while shopping. Bonilla said they are friendly reminders to let customers know of where the store stood in regards to mask policy.

"We obviously can't require, but a lot of our customers will see that and walk up to their cars and put a mask on in respect to their co-owners at the co-op," said Bonilla.

While customers have adapted with the changes that the store has made in accordance with CDC guidelines, employees throughout this entire time have been asked to keep their masks on.

But the back and forth, in what is the "right thing to do" is something that Estis said is stressful for all.

"You didn't think that going to work was going to create this kind of stress and that going to your favorite local wasn't going to be fun. You are not just focused on the new strawberries or the grapes going online. It's like going to be stressful and I have to strategize how I am going to get in and out," Estis said.

As of this week, masks went from only being worn by the unvaccinated, to recommended for all regardless of vaccination status. With various updates at both the national and state level as to what customers should be doing, the grocer has found themselves in an interesting position.

"We are trusted to be the clarifier," shared Estis, "of 'what's the standard? What are we supposed to do?'"

The limbo of masks being on or off is what Bonilla said made them closer to their clientele.

"Our shoppers depend on us for that information," she expressed, "When they show up to the store they not only asking us what we prefer, but looking at what the rest of the community is doing and following that example."

"I think we knew we were doing something pretty important but I think we are just remarked at how, validated we were!" explained Estis.

A positive plus, as rules continue to alter in order to help combat COVID-19.

The grocery store says that they will continue to make the tweaks necessary to keep health and safety the priority. As of Thursday night, the latest guidance recommends all individuals regardless of status wear a mask while indoors.