Danny Gatton pushed a shopping cart laden with bottles of Diet Mountain Dew and assorted snacks Friday morning.
He wore a clearly visible grin.
"I clapped when I heard what the CDC put out on masks," said the 68-year-old Gatton as he stood in the parking lot of the Bettendorf Hy-Vee on Devils Glen Road. "I had COVID and I'm fully vaccinated — but I always wore a mask in public just to be, you know, careful.
"But believe me, I'm happy. I always wondered why it was, if the vaccine protects us, we still have to wear masks. Now that we have the go-ahead, I'm so happy to have the mask off my face."
Gatton's enthusiasm came on the heels of revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines that advise fully vaccinated people are safe to go outdoors and be indoors in public spaces without wearing a mask.
While Gatton said his fully vaccinated status made him comfortable with the prospect of shopping without a mask, the CDC's new guidelines shed some light on a clear divide between perceptions of COVID-19.
During the same time Gatton was shopping, 17 other Hy-Vee shoppers said though they are fully vaccinated they plan to continue to wear masks when in crowded public spaces. And six shoppers without masks said they have no plans to get vaccinated or cover their faces.
The disparities in response are not new in Scott County, where a subdued culture war over masking and other COVID-19 safety recommendations started in places like Bettendorf during the early days of the pandemic.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted all mask requirements Feb. 7 — yet many businesses owners throughout Scott County decided to keep some masking requirements in place for employees, even as restaurants and bars allowed more patrons.
Those committed to not wearing masks Friday in Hy-Vee didn't want to reveal their names, but were candid about their reasons.
"I believe in COVID, it's real," said Tony, a 39-year-old Bettendorf resident who didn't want to give his last name. "But I don't believe in masking. This is just, really, hyped up. COVID is really no different that the flu.
An 80-year-old shopper agreed with Tony, adding masking "makes people sick and so does the vaccine."
A friendly 40-year-old named Adam was shopping with his young daughter Friday morning when he offered the most detailed reason for not wearing masks.
"I got into the numbers — I even started a YouTube channel called 'Intelligent Counterspell.' All the CDC numbers tell us that COVID is a lie. And documents like SPARS 2025 tell us why — they will keep using this virus to destroy America," said Adam, repeating charges made by reactionary radio hosts like Alex Jones.
"I didn't get this from Alex Jones," Adam said. "He's COINTELPRO, he's the controlled oppositions. COVID is a plot by the globalists to take over. So masks? No way."
The shoppers who wore masks said, to a person, they were fully vaccinated and chose to continue the practice "for the sake of everyone else."
"It really doesn't bother me to wear a mask — I mean, it's not a big deal," said 39-year-old Brooke Martin. "It's, maybe, just another layer of safety and a way to help other people not be nervous about going out.
"I don't know who is vaccinated and who isn't — and I'm not going to go around and ask. So I wear a mask to be polite."
The CDC's loosening of recommendations could have a more immediate effect on the Illinois side of the Quad-Cities, where Gov. JB Pritzker kept sometimes unpopular indoor mask mandates and strict capacity limits in place even as restaurants and bars were allowed to open incrementally.
Pritzker sounded open to change Friday, noting he will revise executive orders to sync up with new CDC guidelines on mask wearing by vaccinated individuals in indoor and outdoor spaces.
“I firmly believe in following the science, and will revise my executive orders in line with CDC guidelines lifting additional mitigations for vaccinated people,” Pritzker said. “The scientists’ message is clear: if you are vaccinated, you can safely do much more.”
The CDC’s new masking policy was met with caution Friday in many Quad-City businesses on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.
In the shopping center along John Deere Road at 7th Street in Moline, the Target, Kohl’s and PetSmart stores had the same signage they have had for months, telling all customers that masks are required.
The Jewel grocery store on the Moline-Rock Island border also had the same signage in place.
Also at the City Line Plaza, however, changes have been underway this week.
Thai Flavors, 140 19th Ave., Moline, has been operating for many months as a carry-out only restaurant.
Earlier this week, Thai Flavors opened two tables for indoor dining. The news of the CDC masking-guideline changes had not yet reached the store, an employee said.
On Avenue of the Cities and 48th Street, Oishi Hibachi & Sushi reopened to indoor dining last week after about a year of carry-out only service.
Owner Betty Weng said the decision to reopen was not related to masking changes, nor to advancements in Illinois dining policy. She was relying instead on news an increasing number of her customers have been vaccinated.
“A certain percent can still get it (COVID-19),” Weng said. “We still ask everyone to wear a mask when they come in, but some don’t. We don’t argue.
“We just want you to wear a mask until you get to the table.”
New COVID-19 guidance for Iowa public schools
After the CDC's change in masking guidelines for fully vaccinated people, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced it is making changes to its COVID-19 guidance for public schools.
In a news release, Iowa health officials said:
"We are concurrently revising our COVID-19 guidance for school and child care settings, including quarantine guidance, to recommend that while COVID-19 positive and symptomatic children should be excluded, exposed children should no longer be required to stay home, regardless of mask usage.
"Moreover, when there is a positive case, parents should be given information around exposure to COVID-19 in order to make their own informed decisions regarding risk. To that end, while we acknowledge that some parents may want their child to continue to wear a cloth face covering for reasons that make sense for their family or that child’s individual health condition, we urge schools and child care settings to provide parents and students with the option to make their own decision about mask usage."
COVID-19 death in the Q-C, other numbers
A COVID-19 death was reported Friday in the Q-C — marking four straight days of virus-related death in the area.
The Rock Island Health Department said a man in his 60s who had been hospitalized with severe symptoms of the virus passed away.
His was the 320th death linked to the virus in Rock Island County.
The death toll in Scott County remained 241.
New infections reported Friday were low on both sides of the Q-C, as Rock Island County reported 26 and Scott County reported 29.
Rock Island County has confirmed a total of 14,737 cases since the start of the pandemic, while 21,453 cases have been confirmed in Scott in the same span.