Walmart and Sam's Club to require masks nationwide starting July 20 as COVID-19 cases rise
Walmart and Sam's Club will start requiring masks at stores and clubs nationwide starting Monday, July 20, the company announced Wednesday.
"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 retailers' chief operating officers said in a blog post Wednesday.
The move comes two days after Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said a mask mandate in stores nationwide was "obviously something that's on our minds."
Best Buy and Starbucks started requiring consumers nationwide wear masks Wednesday.
More companies are making face coverings a requirement as viral videos of shoppers' tirades and confrontations over being asked to wear them during the coronavirus pandemic erupt. The coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the National Retail Federation called on retailers to set nationwide mask policies and said "retailers of all sizes have been on the front lines serving customers and supporting their communities."
"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 retail federation said in a statement. "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 Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other major chains, recently asked governors to mandate masks across the nation and says different local mandates have created confusion leading to conflicts between customers and store employees.
If the American public were to embrace masking now, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the pandemic could be brought to heel in less than two months.
"If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now I really do think over the next 4-6-8 weeks, I really think we can bring this under control," he said in an interview Tuesday with the editor in chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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Sam's Club and Walmart's mask policy
In the blog post written by Dacona Smith, Walmart U.S. chief operating officer, and Lance de la Rosa, Sam's Club chief operating officer, the company says the requirement will bring consistency across stores and clubs. Currently about 65% of the company's more than 5,000 stores and clubs require masks.
Starting on July 20, Smith and de la Rosa wrote the company will give stores "time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols."
Walmart has created a "Health Ambassador" role and the ambassadors will be near store entrances "to remind those without a mask of our new requirements."
"The ambassadors, identifiable by their black polo shirts, will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution," Smith and de la Rosa wrote. "We are currently considering different solutions for customers when this requirement takes effect on July 20."
At Sam’s Clubs, associates will remind members "of our requirement to wear a face covering when shopping with us" and will provide members without masks complimentary masks.
"We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering. 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," the company said.
Stores and private businesses can adopt policies "permitted by law for the health and safety" of employees and customers, the National Retail Federation said.
"Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right," the federation's statement said. "If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk."
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise