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Walmart Announces It Will Require Customers To Wear Masks In Stores

As COVID-19 seemingly runs rampant across the South and Southwest, businesses are doing what they can to stay open as safely as possible in hopes of avoiding further economic fallout as seen during the spring.

And so, with 65% of its stores already in states with mask mandates, Walmart has decided to join major retailers Costco, Best Buy, and Starbucks in requiring shoppers to wear masks while in their stores across the entire nation, including Sam's Club, CNN reported.

The nation's largest retailer has jumped into the mask policy discussion with both feet.

Some shoppers have reported crossing state lines to do their grocery shopping in an effort to avoid mask mandates. Starting July 20, they won't be able to do so if they shop at Walmart.

"To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20," Walmart U.S. COO Dacona Smith wrote in a blog post. "This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols."

While the vast majority of shoppers have been happy to don masks while in stores, incidents of resistance, captured on video, have been making the rounds on social media.

One Starbucks customer's expletive-laden refusal to put on a mask, directed toward a barista, went viral and earned the barista more than $100,000 in donated tips from the public.

At a California grocery store, a worker earned praise for keeping a level head and dancing while a shopper complained about having to wear a mask to comply with the store's policy.

Not all encounters with mask-resisters have had happy endings, however.

In many other cases, minimum wage workers have found themselves in the awkward position of trying to enforce a store's policy while suffering abuse from belligerent shoppers who refuse to mask up.

In one extreme case, a worker at a dollar store in Michigan was shot and killed after a customer was refused entry for not abiding by the store's mask policy.

Walmart plans to address concerns about the mask policy with new health ambassadors.


In her blog post, Smith wrote that the ambassadors would be stationed near entrances and be identifiable by black polo shirts. Their primary job will be to help "with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution."

"We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering. Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone," Smith added.

The National Retailer Federation is encouraging other businesses to follow the lead of Walmart, Costco, Best Buy, and Starbucks.

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"Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right," a spokesperson said in a statement, according to NPR. "If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk."

The trade group hopes that Walmart's national policy, as the country's largest retailer, will be "a tipping point in this public health debate."

With more retailers and states requiring masks indoors as the pandemic intensifies, it's unlikely mask policies will go away any time soon.

In fact, CDC director Robert Redfield has gone on the record encouraging more adoption of masks, whether as policy or by government mandate, as a means to curtail the disease's spread.

"I really do believe if the American public all embraced masking now and we really did it, you know, rigorously ... I think if we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think over the next four to six, eight weeks, we can bring this epidemic under control," Redfield said, according to ABC News.

h/t: CNN