Summer activities may look different as COVID cases continue to rise

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A number of businesses are implementing new COVID-19 policies after the Center For Disease Control revised its guidance.

Galveston tourists are about to see signs they haven't seen on the island in months.

This week, the CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors. Because of this, some restaurants have made changes.

"I'm OK with that," tourist Paulus Lee said. "Personally, it doesn't hurt, and I have my mask over here."

The Mosquito Café is one of the many businesses that made a change.

"We're suggesting it," Mosquito Café's director of operations James Clark explained. "We're not making it mandatory because it's not a state mandate by any means. But, we are asking that they do and that they wear them while they're not seated."

Clark also serves as president of the Galveston chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association. He said his business isn't the only one where you'll see a change.

"It's about a 50-50 split," Clark said. "Most are going towards what we're doing where they're requiring staff to be fully masked again and suggesting to the customers to be masked as well."

Space Center Houston is also making a change. On Monday, visitors must wear masks inside the museum.

The cruise company, Royal Caribbean made a change too. Its cruises start in Galveston next month.

The company's CEO said all passengers, even those who are fully vaccinated, must show a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding in August for any trips longer than five nights.

Change is not just coming to Galveston, but economic leaders in the Houston area say you may start to experience more guideline restrictions in other businesses starting this weekend.

"It's the American choice," Lee said. "It's the American freedom and just common sense, and I think that's what's missing for the last couple months."

The Greater Houston Partnership sent ABC13 a statement about businesses making changes.

Full statement below:
"The Partnership is urging businesses in the Houston region to recognize the potential impact of the COVID-19 Delta variant on their operations and do everything they can to maintain the health and safety of their employees and customers. We now have a highly effective tool at our disposal in the fight against COVID-19 in the form of the approved vaccines, and we strongly encourage Houstonians who are not yet vaccinated to do so in order to protect themselves from this more virulent strain of the virus. Employers must weigh their own situation-the vaccination rate among staff, the setup of their workplace and other factors-when determining their course of action. We certainly don't take issue with the CDC's recommendation that even vaccinated individuals should consider masking when in public spaces given the high case counts we are currently seeing in the Houston area. For our own part, the Partnership is requiring employees to declare their vaccination status and the small number who remain unvaccinated must wear a mask when in the office. Right now, we are asking employees to come in one day a week for meetings and collaboration but we will not increase the frequency of in-person requests in the near term while cases are still on the rise."

Private businesses are allowed to make their own changes, but it can't come from the government.

In March, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order allowing county judges to reduce business capacity to 50% if hospitalizations reached a 15% capacity for a week in each region.

On Thursday, he reversed the order, and took local control away.

ABC13 received the following statement from Gov. Abbott's Press Secretary, Renae Eze:

"Governor Abbott has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates. Vaccines are the most effective defense against contracting COVID and becoming seriously ill, and we continue to urge all eligible Texans to get the vaccine. The COVID vaccine will always remain voluntary and never forced in Texas. Texas-and Texans-are increasing the vaccination rate across the state. We're seeing it with people stepping up to get vaccinated, going from over 33,000 receiving the vaccine last Monday to over 78,000 in the past day. Working with our state and local partners through initiatives like the Save Our Seniors program and the State Mobile Vaccine Program, COVID vaccines are easier to access than ever before, with now over 52% of eligible Texans fully vaccinated and over 60% having received at least one dose. And with over 74% of Texas seniors having been fully vaccinated, we're protecting one of our most vulnerable populations. The Governor has remained in regular contact with Dr. Hellerstedt, Chief Kidd, and Dr. Zerwas since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to work closely with them and the teams at DSHS and TDEM to get shots in arms and provide support to communities across the state."

For more on Galveston's response to COVID-19, follow Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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