Wake mask mandate ends; businesses both 'excited' and 'not happy'

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- People are no longer required to wear a mask in Wake County. Everyday people and business owners are split on whether it's a good idea right now.

On Friday, Wake County reported that its daily COVID-19 positivity rate is 8.1 percent, which is higher than the statewide average of 7.1%.

Parent Arian Bella is on the fence about whether she should give up face coverings.

"I think I'm used to masks now, and I'm still nervous inside, but I also feel kind of ready," said Bella.

A Raleigh couple is more than ready to ditch the masks.

"We're excited," said Karly Blackburn.

William Blackburn added: "If the numbers and science is showing that it's turning down, why not? Let's go for it."

LM Restaurants President Amber Moshakos thinks the move offers some relief and a sense of normalcy.

Her 1,900 employees began working mask-less Friday evening at 5 p.m. when Wake officially dropped its mandate.

She's hoping the change will encourage people to return to the job.

"Unfortunately, we did lose some people because they didn't want to wear masks," said Moshakos. "It's hard to wear a mask when you're running around, in a kitchen that's warm and whatnot. So hopefully they will make the decision to come back."

Another restaurateur is unhappy that face coverings are now optional.

Gus Gusler owns The Player's Retreat. The sports bar is an institution for NC State fans.

"We're going to go along with that -- reluctantly," he said.

Gusler said his wife suffers from chronic pulmonary disease, and he implemented a system of serving customers during the pandemic.

Unvaccinated guests are not allowed to dine inside. They must eat in the patio area.

To head indoors, you have to show proof of vaccination and will be given a button.

Gusler says he's already handed out 24,000 buttons and he recently ordered 4,000 more.

"It works out to be the equivalent of 1 out of every 23 people, who live in Raleigh, have come here to register," he said.

Gusler is going to adhere to the mask changes but is not making any alterations to his system.

"It's going to be quite a while before we start serving unvaccinated people inside. I'm not ready to do that any time soon," said Gusler.
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