Walmart has announced that it will be enforcing a mask mandate in its stores. This order, which goes into effect on July 20, covers the nearly 4,800 Walmart locations, as well as the approximately 600 Sam’s Clubs stores in the United States.
“As the number of confirmed cases has spiked in communities across the country recently, so too have the number and types of face covering mandates being implemented,” said Walmart in a news release published on July 15.
Walmart noted that around 65 percent of its stores are already covered by a confusing variety of mask laws. The lack of consistency, however, has caused a lot of confusion, and to get rid of that they will be enforcing a uniform mask order for all of their shoppers starting Monday. The delay gives them time to get the word out to their customers, as well as time for their employees to prepare for the changes.
To help remind customers, Walmart said that they will be placing “health ambassadors” at the entrances of all their stores to check whether customers are wearing appropriate face coverings.
“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,” said Dacona Smith, Chief Operating Officer of Walmart U.S.
Walmart’s mask mandate follows similar rules put up by other companies. Costco started requiring their members to wear masks as early as May, the mask policies of both Starbucks and Best Buy went into effect on July 15 and Kroger’s mask order will go into effect starting July 22. Walmart is so far the largest American corporation to enforce a mask mandate in its stores. (Related: Best Buy now requires customers to wear face masks when entering their stores.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to recommend that the federal government adopt a nationwide mask mandate. However, the CDC, alongside many other health experts and government officials, strongly recommends that people wear face coverings whenever they go out in public. Walmarts new mask policy helps these efforts to get people to wear masks.
Walmart has an outsized influence in the United States. In many large metropolitan areas, Walmart captures at least 50 percent of all grocery sales, with that share growing to over 70 percent in some other areas.
Walmart’s influence isn’t limited to urban areas. In some rural areas – which are starting to see a surge in Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases – Walmart is the only grocery option. In these places, shoppers will have no choice but to follow the company’s mask mandate if they want to purchase essential goods.
As the largest retailer in the United States, Walmart’s mask order may also help persuade many smaller retailers to enact their own mask policies. Many of these have been hesitant to require masks for fear of antagonizing their customers. Walmart’s decision may embolden many of these local stores.
It remains to be seen how many other retailers will follow Walmart’s footsteps in enacting and enforcing a mask mandate for people shopping at their stores, but its effects are already starting to be seen.
Just hours after Walmart’s announcement, the National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group, issued a press release pushing for other retailers to join forces and adopt a nationwide mask mandate for all their stores.
“Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right,” stated the NRF. “If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk.”
Learn about other ways corporations and local governments are fighting the coronavirus by following Pandemic.news.