Suddenly, per the CDC, it was entirely up to local businesses to choose whether to require that their clientele wear masks.
Almost immediately, a similar U-turn manifested on social media. In a reversal of last year's Instagram account @covid_305, which exposed Miami businesses that weren't enforcing mask mandates, an account called @nomasksmiami appeared, shining a spotlight on establishments that permit customers to go maskless.
The account, which to date has garnered 2,600 followers, gives shout-outs to places like Total Wine, which was found to be a "masks optional" establishment.
Some posts share tips on how to bend rules at establishments that enforce masks. At the Frost Museum, @nomasksmiami shares, if you claim a medical exemption you'll be given a yellow bracelet to wear: "If they ask you about your condition, inform them it's between you and your healthcare provider."
New Times reached out to @nomasksmiami to inquire about their account.
Preferring to remain anonymous, @nomasksmiami says they're a registered nurse who works in administration at an acute-care hospital, though they declined to provide documentation to back up that claim. "I was working the floor during the pandemic, and I've worked on patients that coded and expired due to COVID-19," they say.
They say they're fully vaccinated and ready to go maskless now that vaccines are readily available. "Our understanding of this disease has improved and we're seeing better outcomes now than at the very beginning," they say.
They created the Instagram page "to help other like-minded people who wanted the freedom to shop maskless."
In some cases, they pointed out businesses that required facemasks so people who prefer to go maskless can avoid them and to show those businesses that there are people who feel strongly about going maskless.
"I'd venture a guess that it's split along ideological lines — there are people done with the whole affair," they say.
@nomasksmiami says they suggest that people be polite, though they admit it's a contentious issue. "It brings out visceral reactions in people," they note, adding that someone recently opined that they "should be aborted."
Miami restaurants, meanwhile, appear to be divided over the mask issue. On the one hand, many establishments have eased their mask restrictions for customers.
Aniece Meinhold, partner at Phuc Yea in MiMo and Pho Mo and Arepitas Bar at Time Out Market, has chosen to allow her customers to go maskless from now on.
"When it comes to creating an experience, it's not cool to play babysitter," she says, adding that because she wants her customers feel safe, she's still requiring all of her employees to wear masks for the time being.
Romy Moreno, director of wellness at Om & Vine, a wine lounge and yoga studio in West Kendall, says she just replaced the sign that read "mask required" with a new sign: "Mask on, mask off, your choice."
She says the decision to go mask-optional was based on Om & Vine's belief that wearing a mask (or not) ought to be a personal choice. "We welcome people to exercise their right to decide that at our establishment."
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which takes over the sands of South Beach this weekend, will still require everyone — chefs and ticket holders alike — to wear masks when they aren't eating or drinking.
"We're sticking to our guns," Devin Padgett, managing director for the festival, tells New Times.