Walmart to require customers to wear masks at all its stores

Walmart has become the latest major retailer to require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores.

Posted: Jul 15, 2020 10:30 AM
Updated: Jul 15, 2020 2:09 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam's Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.

The company said Wednesday that the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform customers. Currently, about 65% of its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart joins a growing but still small list of retailers to require masks at all of its stores, filling the role of states and the federal government that have failed to issue such mandates on an issue that has been highly politicized by President Donald Trump and many of his ardent supporters. Given Walmart’s clout as the largest retailer in the U.S., its decision is expected to push others to issue similar mandates.

Last week, Starbucks announced that customers who visit its company-owned café locations in the U.S. will be required to wear face coverings. The policies at Starbucks and Best Buy went into effect Wednesday.

Only a handful of major retailers, including teen clothing chain American Eagle Outfitters and Apple, has a mask mandate for customers for all of its stores. Costco Wholesale Club was one of the first major retailers to require face coverings for customers at all of its stores. The policy went into effect in early May.

The National Retail Federation, the nation's largest retail trade group, said in a statement that it hopes Walmart's move will be a “tipping point in this public health debate.”

Retailers had been hesitant to issue chain-wide mandates for fear of angering some customers. They also didn't want to have their workers play the role of enforcers of the protocols. It was already hard enough to get some customers to comply even in the states that had the mandates. However, the recent surge of new virus cases - particularly in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona - has left them with no choice, retail experts say.

“I think Walmart's decision will give cover to other retailers to require masks," said Michael J. Hicks, an economist at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. “I applaud Walmart and others for stepping in."

Bryan Eshelman, a managing director in the retail practice at consultancy AlixPartners, noted that retailers needed to step in to reduce their own health risks and that having a virus case is disruptive.

“It is a business risk that they need to manage for the safety of employees and customers," he said.

Eshelman added that he believes making shoppers comply with the mask protocols will be easier now that wearing masks are becoming more of the norm.

Still, Walmart is taking no chances, making sure to have a new strategy in place to enforce the mask protocols. It said Wednesday that it will create the role of health ambassador at its Walmart stores and will station them near the entrance to remind customers without masks of its new requirements. These workers, who will be wearing black polo shirts, will receive special training to “help make the process as smooth as possible for customers."

Walmart said that it's currently working on different options for customers who don't show up with a face mask.

As for Sam's Club, employees at the entrance will follow the same process with its members, politely reminding them of its requirements to wear a face covering when shopping. Complimentary masks will be provided if the member doesn't have one or a member can buy one at the club.

Retailers have been challenged with striking a balance between keeping shoppers safe while making them feel comfortable.

Last week, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Best Buy and other major chains, publicized a letter it sent to state governors to mandate store customers to wear face coverings. It said the hodgepodge of rules around the country have created confusion for shoppers and that has led to conflict between customers and workers trying to enforce store rules.

The National Governors Association said last week that its members are discussing the letter and others like it from different retail groups.

Social media is full of videos capturing clashes between those who are asked to wear masks, and employees who are under orders to make sure people wear them.

About half of U.S. states require masks in public places, according to the RILA. In recent days, Kentucky and Michigan have passed nationwide mandates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been consistent about recommending people cover their mouth and nose when around others to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. But at the beginning of the lockdowns, it had discouraged people who were not sick from buying masks for fear of taking away what was then a limited supply for health care workers.

“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,” wrote Dacona Smith, chief operating officer at Walmart U.S. and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer at Sam's Club in a blog posted Wednesday. “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.”

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61839

Reported Deaths: 1707
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19569839
Ramsey7717268
Dakota4507106
Anoka3752115
Stearns290920
Washington216345
Nobles17686
Olmsted176723
Scott159020
Mower11052
Rice10388
Blue Earth9325
Wright8975
Carver8783
Clay78840
Sherburne7328
Kandiyohi7021
St. Louis57319
Todd4292
Lyon4253
Freeborn3601
Steele3512
Nicollet34713
Watonwan3230
Benton3203
Winona26416
Beltrami2440
Crow Wing23814
Le Sueur2261
Martin2095
Chisago2041
McLeod2020
Goodhue1999
Otter Tail1983
Cottonwood1780
Becker1611
Pipestone1589
Polk1554
Waseca1490
Itasca14612
Douglas1441
Carlton1420
Unassigned13141
Dodge1290
Isanti1290
Pine1290
Murray1241
Chippewa1071
Morrison931
Wabasha930
Brown892
Faribault890
Meeker872
Rock850
Sibley842
Koochiching793
Jackson790
Pennington751
Cass742
Mille Lacs723
Fillmore670
Renville665
Lincoln580
Grant563
Swift551
Yellow Medicine520
Roseau520
Pope480
Houston420
Aitkin411
Norman400
Kanabec371
Redwood360
Hubbard350
Wilkin343
Marshall290
Wadena270
Mahnomen271
Red Lake240
Big Stone220
Lake210
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse110
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49380

Reported Deaths: 942
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10444208
Woodbury373452
Black Hawk315766
Linn242888
Johnson211819
Dallas189835
Buena Vista179412
Scott174314
Dubuque169831
Marshall145026
Pottawattamie133228
Story117315
Wapello90533
Muscatine85148
Webster8268
Crawford7313
Sioux6433
Cerro Gordo63417
Warren5721
Tama55429
Jasper48127
Wright4751
Plymouth47011
Clinton4164
Dickinson3844
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2623
Hamilton2511
Franklin24512
Bremer2307
Clarke2043
Clay2011
Carroll1942
Emmet1934
Des Moines1872
Shelby1861
Hardin1840
Marion1750
Poweshiek1608
Benton1601
Floyd1582
Allamakee1564
Jackson1561
Mahaska14217
Guthrie1355
Cedar1341
Jones1332
Buchanan1291
Henry1274
Madison1252
Butler1252
Hancock1212
Lee1183
Humboldt1181
Pocahontas1172
Delaware1171
Lyon1152
Harrison1101
Cherokee1101
Clayton1063
Taylor1000
Winneshiek971
Iowa971
Page950
Monona910
Kossuth900
Mills890
Palo Alto880
Jefferson870
Calhoun862
Winnebago860
Sac860
Fayette850
Osceola840
Grundy801
Mitchell790
Cass791
Union781
Monroe748
Lucas734
Worth670
Davis612
Montgomery604
Chickasaw550
Appanoose513
Howard500
Fremont430
Greene430
Keokuk371
Van Buren361
Ida310
Adair300
Audubon291
Decatur250
Ringgold231
Wayne201
Adams160
Unassigned10
Rochester
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Austin
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
More rain chances to finish off the work week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

MSHSL releases guidelines for fall training sessions

Image

Hagedorn Introduces Livestock Relief Bill

Image

A Closer Look at Boating Safety

Image

Funding child care during the work week

Image

Rochester leaders consider their successors

Image

Sara's 10pm Forecast - Wednesday

Image

Sara;s 6pm Forecast - Wednesday

Image

Clear Lake school projects

Image

Mower County Fair Virtual Tour

Image

Racial Equality for Civic Engagement

Community Events