Walmart said Wednesday that it will require all customers to wear a face covering in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores from next week, becoming the largest retailer to mandate facial coverings as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Other national chains have made similar moves. Starbucks (SBUX)said last week that it will require customers to wear facial coverings or masks in all 9,000 of its company-owned US stores beginning Wednesday. Best Buy (BBY) announced Tuesday that it will also require all shoppers coming into its approximately 1,000 stores to wear face masks. Costco (COST) began requiring its members to wear masks in stores beginning in May.
About 65% of Walmart’s more than 5,000 stores, including its Sam’s Club locations, are located in areas where there is a government mandate on face coverings.
“To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20,” Walmart US chief operating officer Dacona Smith and Sam’s Club chief operating officer Lance De La Rosa said in a blog post Wednesday. “This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols.”
The company said the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform stores and customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said that currently about 65% of its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.
The retailer also said it will create the role of health ambassador at its Walmart stores and will station them near the entrance to remind customers without masks of its new requirements. These workers, who will be wearing black polo shirts, will receive special training to “help make the process as smooth as possible for customers.”
The moves come as new COVID-19 cases are spiking in many states, particularly Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Retailers have been challenged with striking a balance between keeping shoppers safe while making them feel comfortable.
Walmart has become the latest major retailer to require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people cover their mouth and nose when around other people to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,” wrote Dacona Smith, chief operating officer at Walmart U.S. and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer at Sam’s Club in a blog posted Wednesday. “We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC.”