At The Fresh Market in Tampa, Fla., signs warn shoppers of the new rule.
The Fresh Market is encouraging all shoppers in its stores to wear face coverings beginning Tuesday, April 14. The move is the latest in a series of escalating actions that retailers have taken to promote social distancing following President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13.
"In order to help keep our communities safe, wearing face coverings is a necessary measure in public settings where physical separation is difficult," said James Ball, director of food safety and quality assurance at The Fresh Market. "There is growing evidence that more individuals than previously thought may be carriers of coronavirus but do not show symptoms of the illness. Wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of the virus by asymptomatic individuals. Since it is impossible to know who may be asymptomatic, it is prudent for everyone to wear a covering. The goal is to reduce the virus transmission to keep everyone as safe as possible."
The Fresh Market said it modified its policy to require all employees to wear a face mask or cloth face covering while working in stores after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance recommending those actions. While some state and city ordinances have already made it mandatory for shoppers to wear face coverings, The Fresh Market said it took the step of requiring masks be worn in all 159 stores to be consistent, proactive and better ensure the safety of everyone at all locations.
“This request to require guests to wear face coverings is in the same spirit as asking guests to follow physical distancing guidance. In order for these safety measures to be effective, The Fresh Market is asking the community to participate,” the company said in a statement.
To alert customers to the change, the retailer sent an email on Saturday and posted information on social media. Stores will also have signage outside the store about the new face covering policy and reminding guests to stay two carts apart while shopping. The retailer did not indicate whether it would deny admittance to those seeking to shop without a face covering.
Based in Greensboro, N.C., The Fresh Market operates 161 stores in 22 states across the United States. The company is No. 41 on Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.