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05/14/2021

Retailers Press for Consistency on Mask Guidance

As restrictions ease, associates’ safety remains paramount
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
Bridget Goldschmidt profile picture
Retailers Press for Consistency on Mask Guidance RILA
While state and governments coordinate their COVID-19 guidance with CDC, RILA urges all retail customers and guests to follow a store’s safety protocols, including wearing a mask and social distancing.

Reflecting the concerns of many of its members, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has called for a consistent state and local government response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent lifting of mask and social-distancing recommendations for vaccinated Americans under most circumstances.

“[The] CDC announcement on masks creates ambiguity for retailers because it fails to fully align with state and local orders,” explained Lisa LaBruno, senior EVP, retail operations and innovation at Washington, D.C.-based RILA. “Retailers are reviewing the latest CDC guidance to determine if any changes should be made to their current safety protocols. While these reviews are ongoing, it is critical for customers to remember the CDC announcement is guidance, and that many state and local jurisdictions still have mask mandates in place that retailers must follow. These conflicting positions put retailers and their employees in incredibly difficult situations. We urge state and local governments to coordinate with the CDC as additional guidance is issued on the road to normalcy.”

Continued La Bruno: “Retailers will continue to prioritize the safety of their team members first, as they’ve done throughout the pandemic. We urge all retail customers and guests to follow a store’s safety protocols, including wearing a mask and social distancing. Front-line workers deserve this respect. Retailers encourage customers that do not want to wear a mask to shop online or via curbside pickup offerings.” 

RILA members comprise more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs, and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers domestically and abroad.

Meanwhile, the union representing many grocery workers expressed downright skepticism regarding the CDC's new guidance. In an interview on CNN, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Marc Perrone noted: “The CDC’s new mask guidance was not nearly clear enough. There are still concerns about...transmission inside closed indoor spaces where you have large numbers of people. That is what a grocery store looks like on any Saturday or Sunday.”

Added Perrone: “We need to wear...masks at least until we get to herd immunity. Unless we get to [an] 80% level [of vaccinations], we shouldn’t go mask-less indoors unless we’re absolutely sure that the people around us are vaccinated.”

According to the union, Since March 1, there has been a nearly 35% increase in grocery worker deaths from the coronavirus and a nearly 30% increase in grocery workers being infected with or exposed to COVID-19 following outbreaks at various supermarket chains.

Washington, D.C.-based UFCW International represents 1.3 million workers in the health care, grocery, meatpacking, food processing, retail and other industries. 

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