Should retailers still require masks?
That’s the big question this weekend as stores evaluate CDC guidance, released Thursday, that said vaccinated people can shed their masks indoors and stop practicing social distancing — in most settings.
Walmart, Costco and Wynn Las Vegas are among the big names that said customers and employees can stop wearing masks if they are fully vaccinated. The retailers are using an honor system to determine the status of shoppers.
Walmart and Costco plan to adhere to state and local regulations if lawmakers still call for masks; Nevada, the home of the Wynn — which houses dozens of luxury shops — ended its mask mandate this week.
Other retailers, including Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, are also loosening masks policies.
But Target, Macy’s, CVS and other big names have kept their mask policies in place for now.
The CDC guidance was a surprise to many people, and left some retailers feeling anxious.
“[The] CDC announcement on masks creates ambiguity for retailers because it fails to fully align with state and local orders,” said Lisa LaBruno, Senior EVP of Retail Operations and Innovation at the Retailer Industry Leaders Assocation in a statement. “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.”
Some retailers are concerned about asking their workers to be vaccine police after a string of mask-related store incidents over the past year.
As masks became a political issue during the height of the pandemic, some frontline employees were subject to verbal or physical abuse when they tried to implement regulations.
For instance, last July, Skechers has issued a response following an incident during which a customer who refused to wear a face mask while shopping in one of its Oklahoma stores threw shoe boxes at employees.
In a statement to FN at the time, president Michael Greenberg wrote that the video of the shopper, which was circulated on social media and garnered national attention, was “troubling.”
“We understand that these are frustrating and alarming times, and not everyone is comfortable with the new way we have to operate,” he said. “But this kind of aggression toward one of our team members is unacceptable and inappropriate.”