Mask or not? Once again, it depends on the store, in the wake of changing recommendations and requirements.
Following last week’s news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks outdoors or indoors – and this weekend’s announcement by Dr. Anthony Fauci that CDC is expected to further refine its guidelines for situation-specific suggestions – grocers’ reactions to facial covering requirements has varied, based on state and local ordinances as well as their own company policies.
Trader Joe’s was one of the first stores to lift the mask mandate in its locations last week. Several retailers soon followed, announcing that masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated shoppers at their stores, including Target Corp., Publix Super Markets, Inc., Walmart Inc. and Sam’s Club. Costco Wholesale Corp., for its part, dropped the requirement except for shoppers in the medical-related pharmacy and optical departments.
At the same time, several retailers have reiterated the need for vulnerable and unvaccinated consumers and store employees to continue to wear facial coverings. Some retailers are still asking all team members to continue masking, such as H-E-B Grocery Co. in Texas. And other retailers, like The Kroger Co., have not yet announced changes to their masking protocols, at least as of this writing.
Grocers’ policies may differ, but industry organizations have continued to call for clarification and consistency on the topic of masking. On May 16, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union lauded New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy for his decision to keep mask orders in place.
“While vaccinations are helping us slow the spread of COVID, the pandemic is far from over and we cannot let our guard down," said UFCW president Marc Perrone. "As the union for frontline food and retail workers in New Jersey and across the country, UFCW is calling on governors to follow the lead of states like New Jersey and Hawaii that are doing the right thing by keeping these life-saving mask mandates in place as we work to vaccinate the millions of Americans still at risk as this pandemic continues.”