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Not requiring masks is a ‘mistake,’ says retail group

Two of the nation’s leading retail groups are reiterating their support for mask-wearing in the wake of several states dropping their mask mandates. 

The Retail Industry Leaders Association on Wednesday issued a statement in which it said that "relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake.” The statement came as Texas said it would lift its mask rule, becoming the largest state to roll back the mandate. Individual retailers, including The Kroger Co., have said they will continue to require customers and employees to wear masks in their stores nationwide.

“We are certainly supportive of governors re-opening their economies and giving beleaguered restaurants and other small businesses the opportunity to rebuild and rehire workers,” RILA stated. “But going backwards on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates.”

RILA added that not wearing masks could also jeopardize the safety of pharmacies and grocers that are gearing up as vaccination centers. 

“Tremendous strides have been made in recent weeks lowering the rate of COVID-19 infections and vaccinating seniors and other vulnerable populations,” RILA stated. “We should not jeopardize this progress with a premature victory celebration."

The National Retail Federation noted that retail stores are private entities and that, as such, if they require a customer to mask in their stores and the customer chooses not to, the store can refuse admission or service.

“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. 

Thorne added that research shows the vast majority of consumers are not only aware of the importance of wearing a mask, and that 87% of consumers surveyed are willing to wear a mask if the business required it, even if they had the vaccine.

Mandate or not, retailers are on the front lines of the pandemic, safely providing goods and services, and now vaccines, to people across the country,” he stated. “This is not due to government mandates; it is because of their proven commitment to do the right thing for their employees and their neighbors in the communities they serve.”

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