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As tourism season begins, businesses up north deal with unclear mask rules

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The question of whether businesses should require masks has stressed northern Michigan’s hospitality industry. As the region’s population begins to swell for the warmer months, tourism officials say they’re taking a cautious approach.

Typically when the cherry trees begin to bloom, northwest Michigan sees an influx of people visiting their summer cottages or vacationing.

Northern Michigan officials say it isn’t clear what COVID safety measures businesses should take as thousands of people are set to enter the region.

The governor says vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks inside, but that businesses can make their own policies. State regulators haven’t yet updated COVID-19 workplace regulations, which currently require masks indoors.

Traverse City Tourism CEO Trevor Tkach says most hotels in the area are largely continuing to require masks for everyone.

“We were sharing with them new signage for their businesses to help explain the situation to the guests," Tkach says. "It is challenging. I would say right now we are consistently inconsistent.”

He says resorts are now thinking about how they might employ rapid testing or require proof of vaccination.

Many up north businesses that cater to summer travelers say visitors should keep their masks on - for now.

Tim Barr owns Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor. He says he’s decided to keep masks mandatory for everyone at his restaurant.

“We just figured that if everybody had a mask on we wouldn’t have to worry about it much," he says. "And then our staff didn't have to ask people maybe they’d be uncomfortable asking or not.”

He says concerned employees were in favor of the policy continuing. Barr says about 80% of his staff is vaccinated, but some might not be for medical reasons.

The Tavern recently partnered with the district health department to offer vaccinations at the restaurant.

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