Walmart will now require customers to wear masks while shopping in its stores.
Two Walmart executives announced that the retailer would be taking this step in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases spiking across the United States. Walmart U.S. chief operating officer Dacona Smith and Sam’s Club chief operating officer Lance de la Rosa wrote in a corporate blog post that approximately 65 percent of Walmart’s and Sam’s Club’s stores are located within areas with mask mandates.
“While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities. According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected, it’s critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance,”they wrote.
The mask requirement will go into effect on Monday, July 20. According to Smith and de la Rosa, this will provide time for training for new protocols and post new signage.
This is the latest health move that Walmart has taken to address COVID-19 concerns. In April, Walmart announced that it would be requiring all associates to wear masks or face coverings at work. At the time, Walmart said it would be encouraging customers to wear masks but did not institute a requirement.
Walmart will be creating a new position for stores – Health Ambassadors – who will be charged with reminding customers to wear masks. Identifable by black polo shirts, the ambassadors will “work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution”In the post, the executives said the company is still developing solutions for these situations.
Sam’s Club stores will follow the same protocols as Walmart stores.
“We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our customers and members in wearing face coverings to protect their safety and the safety of our associates,” Smith and de la Rosa wrote.
In the wake of Walmart’s announcement, the National Retail Federation issued a statement calling on other retail companies to adopt mask requirements in stores.
“We hope today’s announcement by Walmart – the world’s largest retailer – that it will be enforcing a policy requiring customers to wear a mask to shop in their stores is a tipping point in this public health debate. Workers serving customers should not have to make a critical decision as to whether they should risk exposure to infection or lose their jobs because a minority of people refuse to wear masks in order to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus,” the statement reads.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, retailers of all sizes have been on the front lines safely serving customers and supporting their communities. Stores are private businesses that can adopt policies permitted by law for the health and safety of their associates and their customers. Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right. If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk.”