The Kroger Co. is holding firm to its nationwide mask mandate even as some states loosen their restrictions.
The nation’s largest supermarket retailer said Wednesday that it will continue to require shoppers and employees to wear masks at its stores across the country “until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” The statement came the day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he is lifting his state’s mask mandate, effective March 10. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also said he would be dropping the state’s mask mandate, effective March 3.
In related news, two of the nation’s leading retail groups — the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation — reiterated. RILA issued a statement in which it said that "relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake.” And the NRF noted that, as private entities, retailers can require a customer to mask in their stores and refuse admission or service if the customer chooses not to,
“Retailers are private businesses, and it is within their right to implement and enforce policies that protect the health and the safety of their employees and their customers,” stated senior VP of communications and public affairs Bill Thorne.
Kroger, which is offering a $100 one-time payment to employees who receive the vaccine, said that it will continue to encourage social distancing and frequent hand washing, and to consider the use of no-touch grocery delivery or low-contact grocery pickup.
“The Kroger Family of Companies’ most urgent priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers while meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores, e-commerce solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh food,” Kroger stated. “To ensure the continued safety of our customers and associates, The Kroger Family of Companies will continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”