The rollercoaster ride of the COVID-19 pandemic is in the midst of its steepest downward swing and hopefully this trend will continue. The reduced number of cases, increasing number of vaccines, and new CDC guidelines is indicating that the end of the pandemic is closer than the beginning. This has also been reflected in several states easing their lockdown measures on businesses. States like California and New York have allowed some business types to open and restaurants to increase capacity in a tiered system that will eventually remove all restrictions. However, other states like Texas and Mississippi created a splash when they announced that their states would roll back almost all restrictions immediately including mask mandates. This sudden news caused confusion over what this meant for individuals and businesses in those areas, though some companies have started speaking out to make the picture clearer.

Temporary shutdowns and mask mandates became a staple of the pandemic, making it difficult for businesses and people to adjust to initially. The variation in mandates across every state added to the difficulties and caused many large companies like Walmart, Best Buy and Target to institute their own policies that would apply to all stores regardless of location. Other companies began focusing on curbside and online orders that shutdown orders would not apply to. The lifting of certain restrictions is good news for most businesses, however there is concern from many, including the CDC, that moving too quickly could cause COVID-19 cases to rise.

The announcements from last week that Texas and Mississippi will be rolling back mandates have left many wondering what effect this will have on COVID-19 cases and the day-to-day operations of business. The order to remove mandates is not unprecedented as states like Florida have had gubernatorial restrictions lifted since 2020. Many companies like the aforementioned Walmart, Best Buy and Target have stated that their policies will remain the same and masks will still be required in store. Others like H-E-B have said they will urge customers to wear masks and distance while some companies like 24 Hour Fitness will remove these policies. Even though governors have removed statewide orders, local ordinances requiring masks would still remain in place.

For businesses, the changes in mandates could mean that things remain relatively the same. Each company will have more agency over how they apply restrictions and those who have been using state mandates instead of their own policies could face logistical challenges. Businesses that have been preparing to open for the last year will have the opportunity to do so and customers can choose stores, locations, and restaurants that make them feel safe. Early responses from businesses and customers indicate that the lifting of restrictions will not be a full return to normal with masks and distancing continuing for the near future.