Walmart, other retailers require all customers to now wear face masks

Local Walmart employee wearing a face mask as he organizes carts. – Photo by S. Nowlin

by Shawn Nowlin

Because no federal mandate to wear a face mask exists, many businesses and retailers have taken it upon themselves to set a precedent. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  has said that everyone “should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public” and “face-coverings are meant to protect other people.”

There are approximately 4,750 Walmart locations throughout the country. On July 20, the world’s largest retailer began requiring all of its customers to wear face-masks. Other national chains also implementing mask requirements include: Walgreens, Lowe’s, Barnes & Noble and Panera Bread, to name a few.

Kirk Williams was not surprised when he heard of the Walmart decision. While shopping there last month, he said many of the customers he observed did not have a face-covering.

“Because I’m a nurse and had some extra masks in the car, I gave them out to people. We are all in this together. COVID-19, unfortunately, will not likely go away anytime soon,” he said.

Walmart recently announced that its cashiers will no longer provide coin change for most transactions. If exact change cannot be provided, customers are encouraged to round up.

Walmart also created the role of Health Ambassador, an employee that will be stationed near the entrance of the store to remind customers of the new requirements. Individuals unable to wear a face mask due to a medical condition should talk to an ambassador upon entering the store.

In a recent blog post, Walmart US chief operating officer Dacona Smith said, “To help bring consistency across stores, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering. We will continue to inform customers and members of the changes and train associates on the new protocols.”

Kroger, the country’s largest grocery chain, has also joined a growing list of businesses mandating that customers wear masks. Given the devastating impact that COVID-19 has caused (more than 2,000 deaths in Virginia and counting) it should come as no surprise that many companies throughout the nation have taken this position.

Kroger recently released a company statement that read, in part: “With the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, we are committed to doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus. We are requiring all customers in all locations to wear a mask, joining our associates who are already doing so.”

The National Retail Federation, a notable lobbying group, has also called on all businesses to require customers to wear face masks. Individual companies may choose to implement additional rules in the future.