Three of the nation's top retailers are making face masks mandatory and one is even adding a new role to make sure the rule is enforced.
Customers at all Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores will soon be required to wear a face mask. The Kroger Co. and Best Buy are doing the same.
The world's largest retailer made the announcement amid growing evidence that face masks can greatly stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as backlash by some people about wearing masks. The mandate goes into effect on Monday, July 20, “to give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols,” Walmart stated.
Kroger said that, starting July 22, it will require customers in all locations to wear a mask when shopping in its stores, joining "our associates who continue to wear masks." The retailer is encouraging customers who, due to medical reasons, may be unable to wear a mask to consider alternative options, such as a face shield. Customers who are unable to wear a mask or an alternative design, are being asked to order groceries online.
Best Buy has also enacted a mask mandate, effective July 15. It will provide a face covering if a customer doesn’t have one; small children and those unable to wear one for health reasons may enter without one.
Walmart went into detailed specifics regarding its new mandate. Currently about 65% of Walmart’s than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is some form of government mandate on face coverings. The company said its requirment will “bring consistency across stores and clubs.” In line with the new requirement, all stores will have a single entrance.
“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,” stated Walmart U.S. COO, Dacona Smith, and Sam’s Club COO Lance De La Rosa in a blog on the company’s web site. “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.”
In addition to posting clear signage at the front of its stores, Walmart has created the role of “health ambassador” who will be stationed near the entrance to remind customers without a mask of the new requirements. The employees will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers, Walmart said, and will be identifiable by their black polo shirt. They will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution. ‘
At Sam’s Clubs, employees at the entrance will follow the same process with members,” politely” reminding them of the retailer’s requirement to wear a face covering when in the store. Complimentary masks will be provided if the member doesn’t have one. Or members can purchase masks in the club.
“We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering, the Walmart and Sam’s Club executives stated. “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.”
“As we have seen in states and municipalities with mask mandates, virtually everyone either brings a mask or readily complies with the requirement and we anticipate that to happen in other areas as well.”