Retailers drop mask mandates after new CDC guidance
A day after the CDC issued new masking guidelines, retailers started announcing changes to mask policies for fully vaccinated customers.
USA TODAY, Wochit
Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco and Publix were among the first to confirm updates to mask requirements, leading the way for mask-free shopping, though customers who live in areas that have state or local mask requirements may still have to wear them – regardless of vaccination status. In some cases, vaccinated store employees can also go to work without a mask.
Many retailers, including Apple and Walgreens, say they are still evaluating the CDC guidance but say they could update policies.
Target announced Monday that it would no longer require vaccinated customers and employees to wear masks, effective immediately, except where required by local or state mandate. CVS and Kohl’s also announced masks would not be required for vaccinated customers starting Monday.
Starbucks updated its policy to make masks “optional for vaccinated customers beginning Monday, May 17, unless local regulations require them by law.”
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So far, businesses have said proof of the vaccine won’t need to be shown and will be on the honor system.
Publix’s mask update started Saturday and is for fully vaccinated shoppers and workers.
“In accordance with CDC guidelines, individuals who are not fully vaccinated are required to use face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix store,” the grocery store chain said in a statement Friday.
Bloomberg reported Friday night that Apple stores would continue to require masks and follow other COVID-19 procedures as the company evaluates health and safety measures. Apple was one of the first retailers to require masks.
The CDC said Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans, for the most part, no longer need to wear masks indoors and don’t have to wear masks outdoors, even in crowded spaces.
But privately owned businesses can still require masks; most of the nation’s largest retailers began mask mandates last summer. There are other exceptions for when the CDC recommends masks, such as in health care settings, transportation hubs such as airports and stations, planes and public transportation.
Ride-share riders and drivers still must adhere to the mask requirement, and Uber and Lyft told USA TODAY that their mask policies are still in effect.
“Uber’s mask requirement remains in place. We continue to ask that riders and drivers wear a mask over their nose and mouth during the entire trip and that riders sit in the back seat,” Andrew Hasbun, Uber’s head of safety communications, said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Drivers can still cancel the trip if a rider isn’t wearing a mask.”
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Conflicts at businesses and viral videos of shoppers’ tirades erupted amid the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC advised stores not to argue with angry anti-mask customers.
Lisa LaBruno, senior executive vice president at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a statement that the CDC guidance “creates ambiguity for retailers because it fails to fully align with state and local orders.”
LaBruno urged customers to follow safety protocols, including wearing a mask and social distancing.
“Front-line workers deserve this respect. Retailers encourage customers that do not want to wear a mask to shop online or via curbside pickup offerings,” LaBruno said.
No masks for vaccinated customers
Some exceptions apply, including in states and cities that have local mandates.
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Experts say once people accept the transition back to not wearing masks, it is important to take small steps toward re-integration.
USA TODAY, Wochit
Stores still requiring masks
These lists will be updated as more retailers decide whether or not to update mask policies or share plans.
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Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY; Jane Musgrave, Palm Beach Post; Emily DeLetter, Cincinnati Enquirer
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko