Office Depot in Texas City after she refused to wear a mask or leave the store, just days after an arrest warrant was issued for her in Galveston, Texas, for behaving similarly in a Bank of America location.

MaryAnn Kaylor, the owner of two antique stores in Dallas, including Lula B’s Design District, said the mask mandate repeal mattered a lot for stores and people’s behavior.

“He should have focused more on getting people vaccinated instead of trying to open everything up,” she said of Governor Abbott, noting that Texas has one of the country’s slowest vaccination rates.

“You still have cases every day in Texas, and you have people dying still from Covid,” she said. “This complete lifting of mandates is stupid. It shouldn’t have been based on politics — it should have been based on science.”

Some Texans have started to seek out mask-friendly establishments. Ms. Kaylor said that lists of Dallas businesses that require masks had been circulating on Facebook, and that people were consulting them to figure out where to buy groceries and do other shopping.

Emily Francois, a sales associate at a Walmart in Port Arthur, Texas, said that customers had been ignoring signs to wear masks and that Walmart had not been enforcing the policy. So Ms. Francois stands six feet away from shoppers who don’t wear masks, even though that upsets some of them. “My life is more important,” she said.

“I see customers coming in without a mask and they’re coughing, sneezing, they’re not covering their mouths,” said Ms. Francois, who has worked at Walmart for 14 years and is a member of United for Respect, an advocacy group. “Customers coming in the store without masks make us feel like we aren’t worthy, we aren’t safe.”

Phillip Keene, a spokesman for Walmart, said that “our policy of requiring associates and customers to wear masks in our stores has helped protect them during the pandemic, and we’re not lifting those measures at this time.”

Even before the pandemic, Ms. Reece, the Kroger clerk in Mississippi, was wearing a mask to protect herself from the flu because of her cancer diagnosis, she said.

She said 99 percent of customers in her small store had worn masks during the pandemic. “When they had to put it on, they did put it on,” she said. “It’s like giving a child a piece of candy — that child is going to eat that candy unless you take it from them.”

She is concerned about the potential harm from new variants, particularly from those who don’t cover their mouths. “You just have to pray and pray you don’t get within six feet of them, or 10 feet for that matter,” said Ms. Reece, who is also a U.F.C.W. member and has worked for Kroger for more than 30 years. “I know people want it to be back to normal, but you can’t just will it to be back to normal.”

View Source

Workers at U.S. meat plants, early Covid hot spots, are now getting vaccinated in many states.

Employees at food processing facilities, which had some of the country’s largest known coronavirus outbreaks early in the pandemic, are now eligible for vaccines in at least 26 states, a New York Times survey found.

The expansion of vaccines to food processing workers comes amid rapid widening of eligibility, especially for essential workers at greater risk of contracting the virus. Almost every state is vaccinating some subset of frontline workers, but the list of eligible professions varies widely. In at least six states, food processing workers are eligible in certain counties but not in others.

Meat and poultry processing facilities have largely remained open even as large outbreaks infected thousands of workers and killed dozens in the first months of the pandemic. The virus started to spread rapidly in meatpacking facilities as assembly-line workers stood side by side in tight quarters.

A JBS USA pork production plant in Worthington, Minn., with more than 700 recorded coronavirus cases held a mass vaccination event on Friday. JBS USA, a subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the world’s largest meat-processing firm, has offered employees who receive the vaccine $100 incentives.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that about 79.4 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, including about 43 million people who have been fully vaccinated. About 2.25 million doses are given each day on average, up from less than a million two months ago.

With demand for vaccines still outpacing supply, states have faced competing interests in deciding which groups to prioritize. Eligibility opened to many food processing workers in early March across much of the Midwest, where meatpacking and food production are a major part of the economy and often a source of employment for recent immigrants.

In Kansas, where food processing workers are now eligible for the vaccine, nearly 4,000 reported cases have been tied to outbreaks in meatpacking plants, more than in any other setting except long-term care centers and correctional facilities.

“This is a livelihood that supports a number of immigrant populations,” said Marci Nielsen, the Kansas governor’s chief adviser on Covid-19. “And it was very important for the governor to send out a signal that she wants to keep those families safe and to keep these industries open.”

View Source