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Walmart, Target, Home Depot now require customers to wear face coverings at its stores

National Retail Federation encourages all retailers to put a face mask requirement in place

Walmart Inc., Target Corp., Best Buy Co. Inc. and a number of other retailers now require shoppers to wear face coverings in their stores.

The retailers join others, including Starbucks Corp.
and Rite Aid Corp.
that have recently put a face mask policy in place.

Walmart Inc.
announced Wednesday that face coverings will be required at all U.S. stores and Sam’s Club warehouses starting July 20. Face coverings were already required at 65% of locations in cities and towns where there was a face covering government mandate.

The company has more than 5,000 stores and clubs in the U.S.

The five days will be used to alert customers, hang signs and train workers on new protocols, according to a blog post by Dacona Smith, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer of Sam’s Club.

Read: Will wearing a face mask protect you from COVID-19? It’s complicated. Here are the 5 biggest mask myths

Walmart has also created a new role, health ambassador, who will receive special training to alert customers of the rule and find ways to resolve issues that arise from those who refuse to wear a mask or cannot wear one.

Sam’s Club will provide a mask to members who don’t have one at no charge.

All stores will also have a single entrance to ensure consistency.

“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic. 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,” the blog post said.

CVS Health Corp.
tweeted that its face covering requirement will start on Monday.

And home improvement retailers Lowe’s Cos.
and Home Depot Inc. announced face covering requirements on Friday. Lowe’s policy goes into effect on Monday, while Home Depot’s will start next Wednesday. Home Depot has assigned “social distancing captains” as well as store associates to hand out complimentary masks. Lowe’s will also make masks available for free.

Also Friday, Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.
said its mask policy will be in effect by July 24 and include the flagship store brand and others such as Cost Plus World Market and Buybuy Baby.

said Thursday that it will require all customers to wear face coverings at its stores starting August 1, except for those with underlying conditions and young children. The retailer already requires face coverings at more than 80% of its stores.

For those who don’t have a face covering, the store can provide one.

The Best Buy
face covering requirement goes into effect on Wednesday.

“Any customer who has a concern about wearing a mask will be able to shop Best Buy via our website and app and choose home delivery or contactless curbside pickup, which remains in place at all our stores,” the company said on its site.

Kroger will require face coverings on July 22.

“We are taking this extra step now because we recognize additional precautions are needed to protect our country,” the company said in a statement.

Grocery pickup will remain free for those who would prefer to use that service rather than wear a mask.

The National Retail Federation is now encouraging all retailers to adopt a face covering policy in order to protect workers as well as customers.

“We hope today’s announcement by Walmart – the world’s largest retailer – that it will be enforcing a policy requiring customers to wear a mask to shop in their stores is a tipping point in this public health debate,” the group said in a statement.

See:Coronavirus update: COVID-19 is far from contained and could rival 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million, experts warn

“Workers serving customers should not have to make a critical decision as to whether they should risk exposure to infection or lose their jobs because a minority of people refuse to wear masks in order to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.”

The NRF also included a reminder that retailers are “private businesses” that can adopt legal policies to protect their associates and shoppers.

“Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right,” the group said.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International union, also calls on government officials to make face coverings mandatory.

“With governors in the majority of states refusing to make masks mandatory, millions of Americans are needlessly being put in danger every day,” he said in a statement.

“It’s time for elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and make masks mandatory in all 50 states to protect these brave workers and the millions of families they serve.”

Moreover, the union is calling for enforcement by trained professionals, rather than retail workers who are “already stretched thin during this pandemic.”

Commenters on Twitter are already preparing for all the videos of the backlash from angry Walmart shoppers who want to shop without a mask.

Walmart stock has gained 11.1% over the year so far while the Dow Jones Industrial Average
is down 6.5%.

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