As More States Eliminate Mandates, Most Retailers Still Require Face Masks

While Alabama, Mississippi and Texas will soon join more than a dozen other states in the US With no statewide mask requirements, many major retailers and employers are not ready to reject mandatory face covering. in the middle of a pandemic which killed more than 1,900 Americans on Thursday alone.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is the latest to point out that masks will soon be optional in her state. Kay on Thursday extended the state mask requirement until April 9, at which time it will expire and leave the decision to the people.

The Republican state leader’s announcement came two days after the governors of Texas and Mississippi said they would waive the masks and enabling companies to operate at full capacity.

In decisions criticized as “Neanderthal thinking” By President Joe Biden, Texas Governor Greg Abbott stated: “We ensure that all Texas businesses and families have the freedom to determine their own destiny.” Meanwhile, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he was “going out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do” to eliminate mask mandates in the state.

Despite their state policies, residents of Alabama, Texas and Mississippi will still need to wear face masks if they want to enter many, but not all, supermarkets and other large retail chains. Those retailers, which include Kroger, Target and Walgreens, cited guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue to require masks and take other steps to protect workers and consumers from the virus.

Albertsons Companies, one of the nation’s largest supermarket and pharmacy chains, initially said it would remove its requirements that customers wear face masks in its stores and that only its 325,000 workers would still need to cover their faces. But the company revised its plans on Friday.

“Our frontline associates have not had full access to the vaccine. Subsequently, our stores and facilities in Texas will continue to require masks for associates, vendors and customers regardless of whether the mask mandate is withdrawn,” said a spokesman for the company in an emailed statement, referencing the governor’s order in Texas, which takes effect Wednesday, March 10.

Albertsons operates stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under banners that include Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen, and Carrs. The company also operates more than 1,700 pharmacies in its grocery stores, and is among 21 national chains and independent networks participating in a Federal program to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines in the US.

Other participants in the federal effort are unwilling to allow customers to enter their stores and pharmacies without masks.

The Magnolia pharmacy in Magnolia, Texas, will continue to require masks “for the comfort of my staff and patients,” explained owner Steven Hoffart, noting that the nature of the business means sick people come in frequently. “It’s not really about COVID, it’s for stomach virus, flu, any illness, cough, cold – if I can prevent it from spreading to my staff, that’s the main reason we ask patients to wear masks, “Hoffart said.

A member of the AmerisourceBergen Good Neighbor Pharmacy Network, Hoffart’s pharmacy is currently immunizing between 100 and 150 people a day with COVID-19 vaccines from the federal and state government, a grueling but joyous operation that he describes as similar to having a second business.

Walgreens to continue kind reminders

“There is no change at this time to the company’s mask mandate policy or any current security protocol that is in place in our stores or at any workplace to protect our customers and team members. We are following the rules. current CDC and OSHA guidelines regarding safety protocols, “a Walgreens spokesperson said in an email.

The pharmacy chain’s policy has always been “to gently remind customers who shop without masks of the requirement, but out of concern for the safety of our employees, we do not prevent these customers from buying,” added a spokesperson, referring to the hostile reactions. that store employees sometimes face when trying to enforce mask rules with customers.

Another major pharmacy, CVS Health, will also maintain its policy of covering your face in stores across the country, and a CVS Health spokesperson cited “strong scientific evidence that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“If a customer is not wearing a mask or face cover, we will refer them to our signage and ask them to help protect themselves and those around them by listening to experts and taking the call to wear a face cover,” added the spokesman. . “For security reasons, our employees must avoid escalated confrontations with non-compliant customers and instead help them complete their purchases as quickly as possible.”

Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, “will continue to require that everyone in our stores across the country wear masks until all of our front-line grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. in an email. Last month, the company said it would give each of its 500,000 workers in 35 states $ 100 to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Target also meets its requirement that customers and workers wear masks, including those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, “in line with current CDC guidance,” a spokesperson for the retailer said in an email. The retailer makes an exception for those with underlying medical conditions and young children.

Customers who prefer not to wear masks can shop through Target’s contactless options, such as shopping online, the retailer added.

The supermarket union demands vaccines and payment for dangerousness …


Aldi said it will uphold its national policy requiring its workers and customers to wear masks in its more than 2,000 grocery stores in 36 states.

“We are aware of the lifting of the mask mandate in both Texas and Mississippi, where we have stores. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been following CDC guidelines and do not plan to make any adjustments to our security measures. this time, “an Aldi spokesperson said in an email.

A Home Depot spokesperson said the retailer “requires associates and customers to wear masks while in our stores or at any Home Depot facility nationwide. We will continue to follow CDC guidelines, as we have all along. “.

Costco, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Whole Foods did not respond to requests for comment.

The National Retail Federation issued a statement reiterating that retail stores are private entities that can refuse entry or service to those who refuse to adhere to their policies. Furthermore, “it is within your right to implement and enforce policies that protect the health and safety of your employees and customers,” a spokesman for the trade group said in a statement.

San Antonio, Texas-based HEB did not respond to a request for comment. But the supermarket chain, which employs more than 135,000 people in more than 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, appeared to take a softer stance when speaking to a local news outlet.

“Although there is no longer a statewide order for masks, HEB believes it is important that masks are worn in public spaces until more Texans and our partners have access to the Covid-19 vaccine,” a HEB spokesperson told a Fox News affiliate. “HEB will continue to require all of our partners and suppliers to wear masks while at work, and we urge all customers to wear a mask when in our stores.”


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