A couple in Texas was told not to wear masks when visiting a restaurant with a four-month-old son who has cystic fibrosis. After refusing to take their masks off, they were asked to leave. 

Natalie Wester and her husband, Jose Lopez, who are both fully vaccinated, said that an employee at Hang Time, a restaurant in Rowlett, Texas, told them several times to remove their masks when they were out with their immunocompromised son, Austin, last week. They’ve been choosing to still wear masks in public to protect their child. 

“Cystic fibrosis is a very life-threatening genetic disorder, and if my son were to contract COVID he would need to be hospitalized,” Wester said.

The couple was to have dinner and a couple of drinks, catch up with friends they hadn’t seen in a while and call it a night.

About 30 minutes later, their server came over and sat next to Wester. She told her that the manager had sent her “because I am nicer than he is. … But this is political and I need you to take your masks off.”

Wester said she informed the server of their son’s disease, which is genetic and can be life-threatening. The server told her they could pay their bill and leave if following the restaurant’s no-mask policy was a problem.

Blackmer backed up Wester’s version of events but said he has the right to refuse service to customers who don’t abide by the restaurant’s dress code. Blackmer said he implemented the ban in April because he doesn’t think masks stop COVID-19 from spreading and criminals can use them to get away with a robbery, theft or vandalism in a place where his two adult children work.

“I’m not doing things that put them at risk,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that masks are effective at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The agency recommends people who are not fully vaccinated to wear them in indoor public places and urges people to consider doing so outdoors where there is the potential for high numbers of COVID cases. The CDC also warns that people with cystic fibrosis — which produces a thick mucus that can make moving air in and out of the lungs difficult and increase the chance of infection — could have a higher risk of severe COVID symptoms.

The backlash against Blackmer and the restaurant has been swift and fierce, he said, adding that he hasn’t slept in two days since news about Wester’s experience took off.

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