Last week served as a sigh of relief for many of Islip Town’s roughly 329,600 residents after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its modified mask guidelines.
On May 16, the CDC announced that individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can resume regular activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing themselves. The decision was made following the CDC’s five months of post-vaccination studies. The guidelines serve as suggestions for businesses and federal, state and local governments, and it’s in their jurisdiction to determine if residents are required to mask up.
Islip Town supervisor Angie Carpenter, at a May 18 town board meeting, said that the town that day received guidance from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, which stated that beginning May 19, New York State would adopt the new CDC guidance on mask usage and social distancing for fully vaccinated individuals.
“My colleagues on the town board and I, along with our commissioners and department heads, are reviewing the guidance very carefully, because there’s still a lot of rules and regulations that everyone is expected to follow,” Carpenter said at the meeting.
Legis.Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) referred to New York’s decision to adhere to CDC guidelines as the “new, new normal” – ultimately readjusting and accepting that fully vaccinated individuals, who feel that their health and the health of others is not at risk, can be unmasked.
Cilmi said since guidelines have relaxed for vaccinated individuals, “employers, businesses, and patrons are feeling a sense of relief, and a sense of hope that the worst of this pandemic is behind us.”
Dominique Maciejka, owner of Paper Doll Vintage Boutique in Sayville, said while new CDC guidelines may have changed, the store’s mask policy has not. “All customers and employees must wear a mask in the shops. It has not affected business,” Maciejka said.
Similarly, East Islip resident Stephen L. Bermingham, owner of Kitty Mulligan’s Irish Pub in Bay Shore, said the majority of his customers have been respectful and compliant with the mask mandate since he opened in March. He expects that to continue as customers will wear masks until seated.
“If anybody gives our staff a hard time, we just explain that these are our guidelines, and it's to keep everyone safe,” Bermingham, who emigrated from Dublin, Ireland, said. The bar is equipped with divider panels to separate customers and regular sanitization of all surfaces is conducted, Bermingham said, which has helped to make customers feel more secure.
Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holbrook) said he believes that people are excited to get out, shop and dine now that many of the mandates have been lifted.
"Throughout the pandemic, many of the rules from the Governor have been arbitrary and capricious. Businesses understand their customers and what works and does not work. The private sector is fully capable of tailoring their rules to their business model, to ensure everyone stays safe," Legis. Piccirillo said.
Due to the nature of salon services, Oakdale’s Parlour Hair Boutique owner Jennifer Glover said she felt continuing the mask requirement in-store was the right thing to do to keep customers safe. But Glover said it might be too soon to tell how it impacts local businesses.
“Most people have been extremely grateful, some have been quiet, and I had one negative experience thus far,” Glover said. “We sent out an email and posted to our social media so that people would be prepared, so that there wouldn’t be any surprises. But… it's only been a couple days.”
Sam Desmond contributed to this story.