Don’t pitch your mask just yet. You’ll still need it most places

Supermarkets, schools, big-box stores, malls and stadiums all will require people to wear masks even though the governor has declared that Florida no longer faces a coronavirus emergency.

Gov. Ron DeSantis this week wiped away COVID-19 orders that cities and counties had put in place for safety, but many businesses say they won’t bend their policies. They’re still able to require masks, just like they require shirts and shoes.

Here’s what they plan to do.

When you go grocery shopping to restock the fridge, keep on those masks. Since July 21, 2020, face coverings have been required for customers at all Publix locations statewide. “At this time, no changes are being made to our mask policy,” said supermarket spokeswoman Maria Brous.

There are signs and in-store announcements, and Publix will “happily” offer masks to any customers who may not have one. But for those who refuse? “Each situation is handled on a case-by-case basis as some customers have medical conditions which may prevent them from wearing face coverings,” Brous said.

A spokeswoman for Trader Joe’s said the mandatory mask policy there will stay status quo. And a spokeswoman for Southeastern Grocers, which owns Winn-Dixie grocery stores as well as Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket, also said masks are still required.

Students in South Florida’s public schools must wear masks. Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade school districts all say they still require them.

Neither of the governor’s orders Monday “impacts any school district’s policies for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year,” said Miami-Dade schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego. “As such, all health protocols currently in place at M-DCPS will remain in effect for the remainder of this school year.”

No decision has been made for the next school year starting in August. “We haven’t announced this yet,” she said. “We meet routinely with our task force of medical experts and will seek their advise before making any changes to our existing health protocols.”

You’re still required to wear a mask inside any of South Florida’s three major airports: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Miami International Airport and Palm Beach International Airport.

Federal law mandates that anyone inside an airport or on a commercial airplane is required to wear a facial covering. Travelers are required to wear a mask for the duration of the flight.

That order is in effect until at least Sept. 13.

Library patrons must wear masks at Miami-Dade public libraries. Broward libraries are still requiring masks and 6 feet of social distancing between patrons. Masks also are required at Palm Beach County libraries.

“Palm Beach County continues to have a 24-hour quarantine period for returned materials and walk-up service on request,” said county spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda. “We are only offering virtual activities but expect to slowly expand out as we move into the summer.”

Fans at any of South Florida’s professional sports stadiums must wear masks.

Officials from the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena, Miami Marlins at loanDepot park, Florida Panthers at BB&T Center and Inter Miami at DRV PNK Stadium said mask policies at their stadiums remain unchanged despite the governor’s order.

Fans at those venues must wear a mask except while they’re eating or drinking.

All the South Florida professional teams are still allowing a limited number of fans in their stadiums but have been slowly increasing capacity over time.

Representatives for the Miami Dolphins couldn’t be reached for comment.

It’s up to every restaurant to decide if it’ll require masks, so your best bet is calling the restaurant ahead of time to find out its policies. While the governor’s order prohibits local governments from enacting mask mandates, individual restaurants can keep those requirements in place if they choose.

Most restaurant chains with Florida locations haven’t announced updates to their policies, in response to the governor’s order. Representatives for pizzerias, such as Papa John’s Pizza, as well as Darden, which owns restaurants such as Olive Garden, Yard House and The Capital Grille couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Some chains such as McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts still have mask requirements for customers inside their buildings. Policies vary at locally owned restaurants. Fat Boyz Barbecue in Fort Lauderdale, for example, plans to keep its COVID precautions in place despite the new order.

Masks need to stay on at CVS and Walgreens.

CVS’s mask policy has been in place since last summer “based on the strong scientific evidence that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said spokeswoman Tara Burke. “Our face-covering policy remains in effect nationwide based on federal public health recommendations.”

If a customer is not wearing a mask or face covering, employees will ask them to comply, she said. But employees “are directed to avoid escalated confrontations with non-compliant customers,” and if they refuse, will “instead help them complete their purchases as quickly as possible.”

At Walgreens, the mask rule stays in effect for both employees and customers “except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or where the individual is under 2 years of age,” according to a company spokesman.

“Walgreens management may gently remind customers who are shopping without masks about the requirement, but out of concern for our employees’ safety, we do not stop these customers from shopping,” according to the company spokesman.

The malls will be requiring masks, according to Colleen Wagner, a spokeswoman for Simon Property Group, which operates many of the shopping destinations in South Florida. They include the Town Center mall in Boca Raton, Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise and Coral Square in Coral Springs. Also among those requiring masks will be the Dadeland Mall, Miami International Mall and The Falls, all in Miami-Dade.

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A spokesman for The Galleria in Fort Lauderdale said no final decision has been made.

“We are evaluating options based on the most recent statewide executive orders,” said Mark Trouba, the general manager. “If we make any changes to our ongoing policies, we will advise our shoppers and retailers. Safety continues to be our No. 1 priority.”

Target isn’t budging on masks or face coverings in all stores nationwide, and disposable masks are available at the entrances for shoppers who don’t bring their own.

“We also require all store team members to wear masks at work and have provided them with reusable and disposable masks,” according to a Target spokesman. “Those who have been vaccinated for coronavirus are still required to wear a mask and follow all social distancing guidelines, in line with current CDC guidance.”

Walmart is keeping rules status quo, too. “We serve millions of Americans every week and believe our policy of requiring associates and customers to wear masks in our stores has helped protect them during the pandemic, and we’re not lifting those measures at this time,” said spokeswoman Paola Colberg.

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