Gap Inc. has joined the expanding list of retailers that have instituted mask requirements at their stores.
The retail group announced today that all customers visiting its namesake units, as well as Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix and Janie and Jack outposts, must wear face coverings following a recent spike in coronavirus cases across the United States and Canada.
The policy, which affects only the company’s locations in North America, is effective Aug. 1. According to Gap, its employees are already required to wear masks at stores to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. “We’re now asking our customers to help us do the same,” it added, with the exception of “small children or those who are exempt due to an underlying medical condition.”
Gap said that its outposts will be providing disposable masks to shoppers. It also welcomed customers to shop online or use its curbside pickup service at select locations.
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“We’re committed to evolving our health and safety practices and keeping our teams, customers and communities at the core of every decision we make,” the retailer explained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, face masks can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, which has sickened more than 3.79 million people in the U.S. and led to at least 140,700 deaths.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said last week. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus, particularly when used universally within a community setting.”
The recent surge in cases has led big-box retailers Walmart and Target, department stores Kohl’s and Nordstrom, and specialty chain American Eagle to implement requirements for face masks at their units.
Separately, Gap has launched a business-to-business product program offering reusable, non-medical cloth face masks for large companies to offer employees as they return to work. Two weeks ago, the San Francisco-based company said it had sold about 10 million face masks to employers, with the City of New York, the State of California and Kaiser Permanente among its clients. Its flagship chain also continues to sell cloth coverings to customers on its website and in stores.