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Starbucks says masks 'optional' for vaccinated customers

The Hill logo The Hill 5/15/2021 Jordan Williams
a sign above a store: Starbucks says masks 'optional' for vaccinated customers © Getty Starbucks says masks 'optional' for vaccinated customers

Starbucks announced that masks will be "optional" for vaccinated customers starting Monday, becoming the latest company to ease face covering requirements following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week.

The Seattle-based coffee chain said in a statement posted to its website on Friday that it will make masks optional for vaccinated customers beginning May 17, unless otherwise mandated by local regulations.

Employees will continue to be required to wear face coverings, Starbucks said. The company added that its restrooms will also remain closed to the public in stores where the café or café seating area is unavailable.

The move comes as companies push to adapt after the CDC put out updated guidance on Thursday saying that those who are fully vaccinated - meaning two weeks past the last required dose - don't have to wear masks outdoors or indoors, and don't need to maintain physical distance.


Video: Many Trump fans ditched masks. Will they skip the vaccine? (MSNBC)

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Other major retailers including Trader Joe's, Walmart and Costco have since announced they won't require masks for fully vaccinated customers.

The CDC guidelines don't apply in health care settings, homeless shelters or correctional facilities. People will also have to wear masks where required by businesses or workplace guidance.

The announcement puts a new burden on businesses to decide their own path forward on requiring masks. It has also renewed debate over "vaccine passports" to show proof of vaccination.

Vaccine passports have been heavily criticized by Republicans, with some GOP-led states moving to ban them. The White House has also said it will not mandate such proof.

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