More retailers mandate masks for customers

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NEW YORK – More retailers are requiring shoppers to wear masks when inside their stores.  Target, CVS Health, Best Buy and Kroger are among the latest to announce mask-wearing requirements, as retailers grow impatient with the absence of a consistent mandate from state and local governments.

Walmart helped break the ice earlier this week, when the nation’s largest retailer by sales announced that masks would be required at all Walmart and Sam’s Club outlets beginning July 20.

Prior to Walmart’s move, the retail industry had been appealing to the nation’s governors to impose mask-wearing requirements.

“Retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties,” B, Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Leaders Industry Association (RILA) wrote in a letter to the National Governors Association.

But pressure from RILA and the National Retail Federation (NRF) failed to persuade governors like Brian Kemp of Georgia to require residents to wear masks in public settings when social distancing was not possible. Kemp on July 15 issued an executive order preventing local governments from enforcing mandatory face-covering orders that are more restrictive than the current statewide order.

Retailers said the increase in COVID-19 infections is forcing their hand on the issue.

“With the recent spike in COVID-19 infections, we’re joining others in taking the next step and requiring all customers to wear face coverings when entering any of our stores throughout the country effective Monday, July 20,” CVS Health COO Jon Roberts said July 16 in announcing a face-covering policy for all of the retailer’s pharmacy locations. “To be clear, we’re not asking our store employees to play the role of enforcer. What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering.”

Target is requiring all shoppers – excluding those with underlying medical conditions and young children – to wear a mask when inside its stores from August 1.  Target said free masks will be available at store entrances.

Kroger is also excluding shoppers with preexisting conditions and children from the mask-wearing requirement that goes into effect at all of its stores on July 22.

“We are taking this extra step now because we recognize additional precautions are needed to protect our country,” Kroger said in a July 15 press release.


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