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Local businesses weigh whether to do away with mask requirement

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DULUTH, MN -- While a mask is no longer required in most settings for the fully vaccinated, it is up to each business to decide what their policy is moving forward.

Bent Paddle Brewing in Duluth is choosing the optional mask method.

It is up to customers to decide if they want to wear a mask.

With this method, vaccinated employees and customers can wear a mask if they want to but it is not required.

Bent Paddle's Director of Taproom and Retail Operations Pepin Young said their focus throughout the pandemic has always been on staff and customer safety.

"We're going to follow suit here, and we are going to go mask optional today," Young said.

No matter the person's preference, Young wants customers to be respectful.

"We know that a lot of people have been through a lot during this time, and everybody has a different level of comfortability, and so we're going to continue to do that; we respect people's choices," he said.

Not all businesses are going mask optional.

Stephanie Carl, owner of a Le' Salon in Hermantown, is keeping the mask requirement for now.

"At first a year ago, June 1st we reopened and having a mask meant that's what kept our business open," Carl said. "But now, wearing a mask is just trying to keep everyone comfortable and safe in here until we decide as a business what we'd like to do."

For the hair salon, there are more points of contact, so Carl wants to stay cautious.

"It's not easy trying to run a small business during a pandemic, and we made it through 10 weeks of shut down so we want to stay open," she said.

For Bent Paddle, lifting the mask mandate means they are that much closer to brighter days ahead.

"I'm holding a beer here because it is a bit celebratory in the sense that we are a business that needs to operate, and this is one more step in the direction to being whole again," Young said.

Canal Park Brewing will require masks for staff.

Lincoln Park's Free Air Life Co. clothing store is choosing the optional mask method.

The best policy for customers is to look for signs indicating if masks are required.

If you are not sure, just ask.

Essentia Health announced Friday they will still require patients, visitors, and staff to wear a mask while in the hospital.

We have not heard from St. Luke's Hospital about their mask policy.

For schools, the Minnesota Department of Education is directing districts to continue following the safe learning plan.

That means masks in school buildings and on buses.

The Duluth Transit Authority will still require everyone on board to wear a mask.

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Kendall Jarboe

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