Don't discard that mask just yet.

Many local and national businesses contacted Wednesday said they will keep requiring that customers and employees wear masks, despite the statewide mask mandate being lifted by Gov. John Bel Edwards. He left mask requirements up to local governments and individual businesses. Some businesses are looking to their customers and employees for guidance.

Retail giant Walmart said it is not changing its mask policy. We serve millions of Americans every week and believe our policy of requiring associates and customers to wear masks in our stores has helped protect them during the pandemic," the company said. 

Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes and Target also said they will maintain mask mandates in their stores. 

But Baton Rouge-based All Star Lanes said it will leave mask wearing up to its customers.

"We are not requiring it, but we certainly welcome it for people who want to wear it," said Kim Bogan, marketing director for the bowling alley. "We're such a large building that everyone who comes in is not within 6 feet of each other, so we can already do it safely. We want people to have choices. I think a lot of people are finally itching to get out now that they've got the vaccine."

Geaux CrossFit has not required masks for customers for months, but doesn't stop customers from using them. 

"It doesn't really affect us too much, but if the mask makes you feel comfortable then go ahead and wear it," said co-owner Amber Leonard. 

Some other businesses that offer up-close and personal services such as Venetian Nail Spa at Perkins Rowe plan to keep requiring masks. 

"At the moment we are (customers and employees) still wearing masks until folks are comfortable," said Pete Tran, partner at Venetian Nail Spa. "We will still require it."

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At Grown Vibes Bar and Grill, owner Lucretia Franklin has been following the state and local mandates for months, but looks forward to offering customers a choice of whether to wear masks indoors. 

"Masks are not required but if patrons want to wear them it's fine," Franklin said. "I just have a hard time breathing with a mask, and a lot of my customers still want to wear masks but I don't want to require it for them if I don't have it on."

The Mall of Louisiana is encouraging all customers to continue wearing masks inside the shopping center. It will be up to individual stores if they will still require masks, said Gene Satern, general manager. Satern noted some national chains in the mall are still limiting the number of customers allowed in their stores at one time, even though the state has lifted all of the occupancy limits put in place during the pandemic.  

The governor’s order will not change the mask policy at the 45 McDonald’s locations in Baton Rouge and Acadiana operated by MacLaff Inc., President and CEO E.J. Krampe said. Company leaders, however, will re-evaluate the policy over time.

Edwards eliminated the statewide mask mandate, citing the widespread availability of the COVID vaccine and a continuing decline in the number of cases. The order had been in place since July.

In response to the governor's move, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome lifted the parishwide mask mandate.

Masks will still be required at K-12 schools, early childhood education centers, colleges and universities, hospitals, nursing homes, on public transit and at some state government buildings, according to an order issued by the Louisiana Department of Health.  

Edwards repeatedly warned the public Tuesday not to mistake the easing of the mask mandate as a sign that the pandemic is over, hinting that restrictions could return if cases of the deadly virus again spiral out of control.

“We are not on a one-way street moving away from the pandemic. It is very much a two-way street and we do not want to go in the other direction,” Edwards said. 

The updated proclamation, which went into effect Wednesday, also allows large venues to open up to 75% occupancy. Those venues can up that occupancy to 100% if they require masks. Outdoor events will no longer have capacity restrictions and live music can take place if performers on stage are 10 feet away from the audience.   

Staff Writer Blake Paterson contributed to this story.

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