- The CDC relaxed mask guidelines Thursday for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, announcing that they no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors in most settings.
- Governors in Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington all responded by issuing varying degrees of relaxed restrictions.
- Washington D.C. and several other states — such as California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia — have all kept current restrictions in place for now.
- A number of retailers have also said they will still require customers to wear masks regardless of state restrictions, including Walmart, Kroger, Target, Starbucks, Macy’s, and Home Depot.
CDC Lifts Mask Mandate for Fully Vaccinated People
Despite recently relaxed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, several states and companies are continuing to enforce mask requirements.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday while announcing that the agency is no longer recommending that fully vaccinated people need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, in most settings.
The CDC’s recommendation does not apply to crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final shot.
What States Are Still Requiring Masks?
A handful of states, all led by Democratic governors, quickly responded to the CDC’s announcement by lifting mask mandates. That’s largely unsurprising given that more than half of U.S. states, mostly led by Republican governors, had already done so.
Starting May 19, Connecticut will follow the CDC’s guidance by lifting the indoor mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated. The state will also lift size limits and social distancing rules for businesses on that day.
In Illinois, the office of Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has said he will revise the state’s mask mandate so that it is in line with the CDC’s recommendations. Additionally, Pritzker loosened capacity restrictions on businesses Friday, and in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said fully vaccinated people will not count toward capacity limits starting this weekend.
The governors for Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have all said their states will immediately follow the CDC’s guidance.
Pennsylvania made a similar announcement; however, Philadelphia has chosen to keep its mask requirements in place.
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that the state would be ending its mask mandate for all starting Friday, but Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) said the city plans to keep its indoor mask requirements until officials have more time to access local data.
Meanwhile, the governors of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia, as well as the mayor of Washington D.C., said they will review the updated guidance, but for now, mask mandates will remain in effect for everyone.
California also doesn’t seem to be revising its current end date for outdoor mask mandates: June 15.
Businesses Still Requiring Masks
Many businesses, particularly some of the nation’s top big box chains, will still require customers to wear masks, even if their state does not automatically require people to wear masks indoors.
That includes Walmart, Kroger, Target, Starbucks, Macy’s, and Home Depot.
Meanwhile, Walgreens, CVS, Publix, Gap, and Ulta have all indicated that they are reviewing the guidelines, but so far, none have revised their mask policies.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Business Insider) (USA Today)
“Cyberpunk 2077” Developer Agrees To Settle Lawsuit for $1.85M
If approved, CD Projekt Red would pay just a small fraction of the $316 million it reportedly spent developing the game.
CDPR Agrees To Settle
Game developer CD Projekt Red (CDPR) has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit related to its buggy launch of “Cyberpunk 2077” for $1.85 million, The Verge reported Thursday.
The lawsuit itself is actually a conglomeration of four different suits brought by shareholders who alleged that they were misled about the company’s financial performance. Since the game’s release, CD Projekt Red’s share price has fallen 54%.
The settlement must now be approved in court, but overall, it appears to be a small amount compared to the game’s $316 million budget. In fact, the game reportedly made $563 million in sales and only spent around $2.2 million on a refund campaign, though the developer’s overall refund cost for 2020 could have been as much as $51 million.
“Perhaps the plaintiffs didn’t have much of a case?” The Verge writer Sean Hollister speculated on why “it sounds like the lead plaintiffs and their lawyers negotiated for a fairly tiny sum here in exchange for ‘relinquish[ing] any and all claims against the Company and members of its Management Board.’”
“As expressly stated in the Term Sheet, execution of the Term Sheet does not imply admission of any responsibility on the part of the Company or any of the other defendants named in the case,” the negotiated settlement reads.
“Cyberpunk’s” Botched Launch
“Cyberpunk” was first announced in 2012, and for years, it was the subject of widespread fan anticipation. Seven years later, a release date of April 16, 2020, was given; however, that date was pushed back several times much to the ire of fans, some of whom even sent CDPR staff death threats.
The game was ultimately released amid fan pressure on Dec. 10, 2020, but it was so riddled with glitches that Sony infamously pulled “Cyberpunk” from its Playstation Store a week later, offering full refunds to all players who had purchased a digital copy. In June this year, “Cyberpunk” finally made its way back onto the Playstation Store following multiple patches and hotfixes from CDPR.
Despite “Cyberpunk” surpassing a massive 8 million pre-orders before launch, Bloomberg reported last week that “Where analysts had originally expected Cyberpunk sales of 30 million units in the year after the game’s release, they now expect 17.3 million copies to have been sold in that time.”
In October, CDPR delayed planned next-gen updates for both “Cyberpunk” and “The Witcher 3” until the first and second quarters of 2022, respectively.
“Apologies for the extended wait, but we want to make it right,” the developer said.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Engadget) (Video Games Chronicle)
E.U. Court Rules That All Member Nations Must Recognize Same-Sex Parents
The decision comes after a child named Sara was left without a country to call home because she had two mothers.
The Child With No Citizenship
The European Court of Justice, the European Union’s highest court, ruled Tuesday that all 27 of its member states must recognize same-sex parents and their children as a family.
The ruling stems from a case involving two women and their newborn daughter, whose status as a family originally varied between member nations. As a result, the couple’s daughter was left without citizenship in any country.
The two women, Bulgarian citizen Kalina Ivanova and Gibraltar-born British citizen Jane Jones, found themselves unable to take their newborn child Sara out of Spain after she was born in the country. Because Spain recognizes same-sex marriage, both Ivanova and Jones were registered as the girl’s legal mothers on her Spanish birth certificate.
However, under Spanish law, Sara was unable to gain citizenship in the country since neither of her parents were Spanish citizens. On top of that, she was denied British citizenship because Jones “was born in Gibraltar of British descent, and under the British Nationality Act (1981), [Jones] cannot transfer citizenship to her daughter,” the LGBTQ+ advocacy group ILGA-Europe said in a press release.
That left the couple with one other option: register Sara as a Bulgarian citizen. Still, the Bulgarian government refused to issue Sara a legally-recognized birth certificate, arguing that she is ineligible to have two mothers. Officially, Bulgaria does not recognize either same-sex marriages or same-sex registered partnerships.
“Currently, the child has no personal documents and cannot leave Spain, the country of the family’s habitual residence,” lLGA-Europe said. “The lack of documents restrict Sara’s access to education, healthcare, and social security in Spain.”
In its Tuesday decision, the European Court of Justice ruled that children in the EU have a legal right to freely move between countries given that such a right is afforded to all EU citizens. Because of this, all countries are now required to uniformly recognize the child’s parents, even if they are of the same sex.
“That refusal could make it more difficult for a Bulgarian identity document to be issued and, therefore, hinder the child’s exercise of the right of free movement and thus full enjoyment of her rights as a Union citizen,” the court said.
Despite some member states like Bulgaria not legally recognizing same-sex couples, the court stressed that its ruling “does not undermine the national identity or pose a threat to the public policy” of those nations.
That’s because while Bulgaria doesn’t have to issue its own birth certificate for Sara, it does have to recognize the Spanish birth certificate and issue its own identity card or passport for Sara.
“We are thrilled about the decision and cannot wait to get Sara her documentation and finally be able to see our families after more than two years,” Sara’s parents said according to the ILGA-Europe release. “It is important for us to be a family, not only in Spain but in any country in Europe and finally it might happen. This is a long-awaited step ahead for us but also a huge step for all LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe.”
GoFundMe Campaign Raises $8,700 for Waitress Who Was Fired After Not Sharing $4,400 Tip With Co-Workers
The waitress said this was the only time management had ever tried to force her to pool a tip in her three-and-a-half years working at the restaurant.
Waitress Gets Fired After Receiving Massive Tip
An Arkansas waitress has received over $8,700 in donations online after she was fired from her job for refusing to split her half of a $4,400 dollar tip with the rest of the restaurant’s crew.
That waitress, Ryan Brandt, told local Nexstar outlet KNWA last week that she and another server received the tip after waiting on a group of more than 40 people at the Oven & Tap restaurant in Bentonville.
“It was an incredible thing to do and to see her reaction was awesome, to see what that meant to her, the impact that it’s had on her life already,” Grant Wise, who was part of the party Brandt served, told the outlet.
According to KNWA, Wise called the restaurant before his large party arrived and asked about its tipping policy since they intentionally planned to donate $100 each as part of a way to thank restaurant workers. At the time of his call, Wise said he was told the money would go directly to his party’s servers.
“We knew servers were really hit hard through COVID, and it was something that we had come up with to help give back,” Wise told KFSM.
The outcome, however, was much different. After receiving the tip, Brandt and the other server were allegedly told by a manager that they needed to pool the tip with the rest of the workers on duty. Brandt told KNWA she had never once been asked to pool her tips in her three-and-a-half years at the restaurant prior to this.
Complying meant Brant would take home just 20% of her half of the tip.
At some point before leaving, Brandt informed Wise that her tip would be pooled with the rest of the staff. Wise, who had intended the money to only go to his servers, then asked management to return his tip, which he gave to Brandt directly outside the restaurant. The following day, Brandt said she was fired over the phone.
“It was devastating,” Brandt told local outlets. “I borrowed a significant amount for student loans. Most of them were turned off because of the pandemic but they’re turning back on in January and that’s a harsh reality.”
Oven & Tap did not speak on Brandt’s firing in its initial statement. Instead, it only said, “After dining, this large group of guests requested that their gratuity be given to two particular servers. We fully honored their request. Out of respect for our highly valued team members, we do not discuss the details surrounding the termination of an employee.”
In a follow-up statement, Oven & Tap owners Mollie Mullis and Luke Wetzel said, “The server who was terminated several days after the group dined with us was not let go because she chose to keep the tip money.”
“We recognize and regret that a recent incident in our restaurant could have been handled differently by reminding our team how we would be splitting any tips prior to the event, however, our policy has always been to participate in a tip pool/share with the staff. Tip sharing is a common restaurant industry practice that we follow to ensure all of our team members are adequately compensated for their hard work.”
Oven & Tap has still not specifically commented on why it fired Brandt, but Brandt told KNWA she believes it’s because she violated company policy by telling Wise that his party’s tip was going to be pooled.
Online Fundraising Campaigns for Brandt
After learning of Brandt’s firing, Wise created a GoFundMe, which ultimately raised $8,732 for Brandt.
“[Brandt] is, from what I can tell, a very kind woman that was working two jobs to get by through the pandemic,” he said in his initial post. “She has incredible aspirations to grow her own business and I can tell has a servants-heart.”
Wise provided an update Tuesday saying that instead of closing the GoFundMe, he will keep the campaign open to raise additional money to “pay it forward” to a future group of restaurant staff who will wait on his party.
“In January, we are going to host another $100 Dinner Club and I have invited [Brandt] to be our ‘Guest of Honor’!” he said. “Any dollar amount raised over the $8,732 that has already been raised and is being paid out to [Brandt] will be given directly to the staff of the restaurant we decide to eat at.”
“We will be working to ensure through this that all staff in the restaurant are tipped so everyone feels blessed by our dinner.”
As of Tuesday morning, the GoFundMe page has raised over $9,100.