A mask policy poster is seen at the entrance to a Luzerne County Sheetz store on Friday evening. The Altoona-based chain is among those companies that say they will continue to require employees and customers to wear masks while reviewing the CDC’s latest guidelines.
                                 Roger DuPuis | Times Leader

A mask policy poster is seen at the entrance to a Luzerne County Sheetz store on Friday evening. The Altoona-based chain is among those companies that say they will continue to require employees and customers to wear masks while reviewing the CDC’s latest guidelines.

Roger DuPuis | Times Leader

Businesses, diocese, other organizations divided in reaction to policy shift

If you’re fully vaccinated, you can show your face in Gerrity’s Supermarkets — your whole face, that is.

Likewise at Roman Catholic Mass in the Diocese of Scranton.

You’re going to have to keep that mask on inside Sheetz stores, on the other hand. Also at all Geisinger properties.

In short, the reaction to new mask guidance issued this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been mixed, with some businesses and organizations easing up and others holding fast while they assess the situation.

Here is a rundown of how some prominent names that serve our region have responded.

Gerrity’s

As noted, the Scranton-based retail chain announced Friday that it will no longer require customers and employees who are vaccinated to wear a face covering in its Gerrity’s Supermarkets and Gerrity’s Ace Hardware stores.

Customers who are not vaccinated will still need to continue to wear a face covering. The same will apply to Gerrity’s team members.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have tried to do our best with the information provided and this situation is no different,” said Joe Fasula, Co-owner of Gerrity’s. “However, there are no perfect answers. I hope people will understand the difficult position that all businesses are in. The state has said that masks must be worn by unvaccinated people until we reach a 70% vaccination rate. Until that time we need to follow guidelines.”

Weis, Wegmans, Sheetz

Sunbury-based Weis Markets and Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans are sticking with their mask requirements for now.

“While we review the CDC’s new mask advisory, we will continue to comply with local and state guidelines requiring people to wear masks indoors. Our associates will continue to wear masks while working indoors to ensure their safety and the safety of our customers, and we hope customers will comply with these indoor mask guidelines,” spokesman Dennis Curtin said Friday.

Wegmans spokeswoman Tracy Van Auken similary said her firm is reviewing the CDC guidance “and have not made any changes to our policy at this time.”

Altoona-based Sheetz said much the same.

“At this time, Sheetz is reviewing the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding vaccinated people and the wearing of masks — and any potential changes for employees and customers at our store locations. For the time being, masks will still be required inside our stores,” spokesman Nick Ruffner said.

Efforts to reach a spokesperson for the Turkey Hill gas and convenience store chain were not immediately successful.

Diocesan statement

The Diocese of Scranton on Friday issued a lengthy set of revised guidelines concerning the celebration of public Masses in its 11 counties, effective immediately.

“The health and safety of our communities continues to be of paramount importance. Given the recent positive trends and widespread vaccinations, we are happy to announce numerous changes that can begin immediately in parishes,” Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said in a message to pastors announcing the changes.

“As we have all come to realize over the last 14 months, guidelines can change very quickly. I want to express my gratitude to everyone for their flexibility and hard work in putting the changing directives into effect.”

Even as restrictions are being eased, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses remains in place in the Diocese of Scranton, Bambera’s statement added.

A full listing of the new guidelines can be found on the Diocese of Scranton’s website, but some of the significant changes include:

• Individuals who are fully vaccinated from COVID-19 are not required to wear masks while attending Mass or receiving Holy Communion. Fully vaccinated individuals are welcome to continue wearing masks at Mass if desired for personal protection and/or comfort.

• Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks while attending Mass. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask while receiving Holy Communion but may briefly remove the mask in order to consume the Sacred Host.

• Priests, Deacons and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are still required to wear a face mask during the Distribution of Holy Communion at this time – even if they have been fully vaccinated. This precautionary measure is due to the wide-ranging vaccination rates currently among the 11 counties that make up the Diocese of Scranton.

• Every parish MUST, without exception, post signage in any entrance areas stating that anyone who is not fully vaccinated is expected to wear a mask and anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should not enter.

• Parishes MUST, without exception, make an announcement at the beginning of Mass that anyone who is not fully vaccinated is expected to wear a mask.

Pews no longer need to be marked for physical distancing. Parishes should remind the faithful to continue maximizing the use of space as much as possible.

Other notable announcements

• Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco will drop the mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers unless required by state or local laws. Walmart employees can cease wearing masks beginning Tuesday.

• Target will keep its pandemic protocols in place for the time being, as will Dollar General, Starbucks and Home Depot, among others.

• Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens also are keeping their mask requirements for now.