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Businesses don't want to become mask police as COVID-19 threat level is raised

Harris County’s COVID-19 threat level has been raised to red, which urges unvaccinated residents to stay home and minimize contact with others.

HOUSTON — It’s an event that in years past has drawn thousands to the Heights.

White Linen Night’s organizers have decided to pull the plug on this Saturday’s festival for the second year in row because of COVID-19.

Harold’s restaurant owner Alli Jarrett said they made the right decision.

“We were all hopeful that things would be getting back to normal this year and we all know where we are,” Jarrett said. “We have too many unvaccinated people and cases on the rise.”

But businesses on 19th Street still plan to welcome the crowds.

“While the street can’t be closed, we are all open for business," Jarrett said. "The shops are staying open later. We have a little bit of music. We want people to have fun responsibly.”

Now that Harris County’s COVID-19 threat level has been raised to red, which urges unvaccinated residents to stay home and minimize contact with others, Jarrett said businesses are put in a tough spot when it comes to enforcing safety guidelines and mask mandates.

“We can’t be the mask or vaccine police because restaurants in particular just took such a hard blow on our staff of people just being humiliated for asking someone to wear a mask," Jarrett said.

Regardless of their vaccination status, some people like Angie Morales want the ability to decide what’s best for them.

“I think it’s personal responsibility. I don’t think they should be enforcing," Morales said.

Jarrett said what they can do is follow the Texas Restaurant Promise which reflects changes made by the CDC regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

It includes requiring employees to wear face coverings while working, requiring them to pass health screenings before shifts and social distancing of guests.

“We ask that if you’re sick, don’t come out. Please stay at home,” Jarrett said.

That’s the big message they want to get across: if you’re feeling sick, you should be doing your part to protect others and stay home.

If you have to be out and about remember to use hand sanitizer, wear a mask and practice social distancing.