Austinites share mixed reactions to new CDC, MLB mask guidelines

For some in the local entertainment industry, Thursday’s new mask guidelines from the CDC were a welcome relief.

"I’m very happy, very thankful," said Bob Woody, president of the East Sixth Street Community Association. "Ready for it to be over."

For others, nothing is going to change - for now.

"We're looking at it from more of a safety, precautionary standpoint, and we just don't see why we would change now," said Simon Madera, owner of Taco Flats and La Holly in East Austin. ‘"We don't want to establish even more confusion."

Under the CDC’s new guidelines, those who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear a mask indoors or outdoors - with the exception of public transportation.

Woody, who owns 17 bars along Sixth Street, already lifted mask requirements for his customers after Governor Abbott lifted the statewide mandate. He said wearing a mask - or getting a vaccine - is the customer’s choice.

"If you want to get the shot, get the vaccine, if you can stay home and you’re worried about it, stay home," he said. "But if you come to the entertainment district, we’re alive down here."


But for Madera, he feels like they have a good rhythm going at his businesses. He also said they’ve been experiencing a recent staffing shortage and can’t risk losing employees because they get sick.  

"For us to safely keep people at work and employed and keep our business operating where it needs to, we have to keep it," he said. "So I think for right now it is what it is, but it might change next week."

According to Austin Public Health, the department is currently reviewing the new CDC guidelines to decide if or how to amend current local health restrictions.

"Austin Public Health is evaluating the new CDC guidelines that were released today to determine how to incorporate them into our Risk-Based Guidelines as well as the Health Authority Rules," said APH in a statement. "We are excited to see the vaccination efforts begin allowing for progress to normalcy."

"This is good news that reflects the progress we have made so far," said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. "Unvaccinated folks continue to be vulnerable to this virus, so I urge anyone who is still unvaccinated to remain healthy and help keep our COVID-19 numbers low by getting a vaccine as soon as possible." 

"We should celebrate that the evidence is showing the vaccines work even better than anticipated and that, once vaccinated, you have significant protection. This is what all our hard work has earned us," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. "Since more people will not be wearing masks, it makes it even more important to get vaccinated. It is now easier than ever to get a vaccine -- you can find a walk-up clinic without an appointment in more places, and eligibility has expanded to those 12 years of age and older. We urge everyone to ‘take the shot.’ We anticipate that Dr. Escott will be revising his rules shortly."


Within hours of the CDC announcing its new recommendation on Thursday, Major League Baseball announced that minor league teams can now defer to local health authorities for COVID-19 protocols.  

For the Round Rock Express, that means following in the footsteps of Williamson County and Round Rock and no longer requiring fans to wear masks.

"To be kind of in our sweet spot in the baseball season and to be part of moving forward, I think it’s a big win for all of us," said general manager Tim Jackson.

The team will continue to offer some socially distanced seating for fans that prefer that option. However, Jackson said they see their 11-acre, outdoor facility as safe and have already gotten positive feedback from fans in the first games of the season.

"The amount of people that have come up to me and my staff and just thanked us for some normalcy..." said Jackson. "They’re so thankful - as are we - for the chance to be a part of moving forward."