Walmart is taking a new step to keep its workers safe during the coronavirus crisis.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based company said that all employees — including workers at its stores, distribution centers and corporate offices — will be required to wear masks or other face coverings at work beginning on Monday.
“We have evolved our policy on face coverings from optional to mandatory as public health guidance has shifted,” Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner and Sam’s Club president and CEO Kath McLay wrote in a joint statement. “Although most state and local governments do not mandate the use of face coverings in public settings, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has reported that recent studies show a significant portion of individuals with the virus lack symptoms and can transmit the virus. With this knowledge, we believe it is simply in everyone’s best interest to use masks or face coverings to curb the spread of this disease.”
Shoppers at Walmart and Sam’s Club are not required to wear face coverings, but McLay and Furner said they will be “encouraging” customers to wear masks.
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The retailer had previously implemented several measures aimed at keeping workers and customers safe, including reducing store hours to allow for more cleaning and restocking; installing social distance markers and sneeze guards in stores; checking employee temperatures; and making gloves and masks available to associates. The chain has also limited the capacity of its stores to about 20%.
While many retailers have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, big-box and grocery stores have seen a surge in demand as shoppers stock up on certain household essentials. For this reason, Walmart, Amazon and Costco have been mass hiring, at a time when other companies are shedding jobs at record pace.
Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer, with about 1.5 million people on its payroll. The company has hired 150,000 new associates within the last month and plans to add an additional 50,000 workers in the coming weeks.