Walmart has decided to require all customers to wear masks in its stores in a mandate to be rolled out nationwide next week.
The world’s largest retailer released a statement on Wednesday noting that as “the number of confirmed cases” of coronavirus “has spiked in communities across the country recently, so too have the number and types of face covering mandates being implemented.”
“Currently about 65 percent of our more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is some form of government mandate on face coverings. To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20. This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols,” the statement read.
Walmart said it has also “created the role of Health Ambassador and will station them near the entrance to remind those without a mask of our new requirements” and that they will be identifiable by their black polo shirts. These individuals “will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution.”
“We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering. Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone,” insists the statement.
The brand’s sister store, Sam’s Club, will also be requiring customers to wear masks.
Previously, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon indicated in an interview on Monday that masks were required in only the locations “where either governor or someone else has mandated it.”
“We don’t currently, as we’re doing this interview, mandate that in our other stores but that’s obviously something that’s on our minds,” McMillon said.
Walmart follows suit with other major chains like Starbucks and Best Buy, which have all announced in the last few weeks that they will be requiring customers to wear facial coverings upon entry into stores.
There is currently no federal ruling requiring mask-wearing in retail stores, but the CDC has affirmed “that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities.”
The organization says “there is increasing evidence” that face masks have “helped prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield has even called them “one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.”
Earlier this month, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Walgreens, Home Depot and other major chains, penned a letter to the National Governors Association in an effort to get governors around the country on board with wearing masks.
“Retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties,” wrote Brian Dodge, the retail association’s president, in the letter.
The letter also “respectfully” asked that “those governors that haven’t yet required masks in public to do so immediately.”
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