SAN FRANCISCO -- More major retailers are requiring shoppers to wear masks or face coverings while in their stores amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Though some defer to local orders regarding masks, other chains have issued company-wide policies. This week, McDonald's became the latest chain to mandate that masks are required to enter any of their stores.
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As retailers have been making decisions regarding their individual businesses, retail trade groups have advocated for more cohesive policies.
The National Retail Federation issued a statement Wednesday that urged "our elected leaders need to set politics aside," saying "it is critically important that we have a national mask standard implemented locally."
The NRF applauded the efforts of retailers like Walmart and Best Buy, and noted "Stores are private businesses that can adopt policies permitted by law for the health and safety of their associates and their customers. Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right. If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk."
This follows in the footsteps of The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Target, Home Depot and other major chains, writing a letter to the National Governors' Association on July 6.
"We urge every governor to require customers who are not encumbered by a medical condition to wear masks when shopping or in public spaces," the letter says, citing the confusion of conflicting private retailer, local, and state mask policies.
They also noted the "troubling incidents" of customers refusing to wear masks. "We strongly recommend store employees not be charged with primary enforcement of mask mandates and that retailers not be fined for a customer's non-compliance," said the RILA.
Here's a list of major retailers who require customers wear masks inside their stores:
Starting Monday, July 27, face coverings will be required to enter ALDI stores. "Our new face covering policy is an enhanced safety measure intended to help limit the spread of COVID-19. All ALDI employees will continue to wear face coverings, as they have for months."
In May, Apple announced that for the retail stores that are now reopened, "face coverings will be required for all of our teams and customers, and we will provide them to customers who don't bring their own."
"As of July 24, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering, in line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control," Bed Bath & Beyond's policy states.
Best Buy issued their own mask policy on Tuesday. The requirement to wear a face-covering inside the store began on July 15. "We will provide a face covering if a customer doesn't have one, and small children and those unable to wear one for health reasons may enter without one," the company's statement read. "Any customer who has a concern about wearing a mask will be able to shop Best Buy via our website and app and choose home delivery or contactless curbside pickup, which remains in place at all our stores."
Costco was one of the first retailers to issue a blanket requirement for face coverings. Their site reads: "To protect our members and employees, all Costco members and guests must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times while at Costco. This requirement does not apply to children under the age of 2 or to individuals who are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition."
CVS will require customers to wear masks at all stores across the country starting Monday, July 20.
Dollar Tree's July 8 update to their coronavirus policy says, "In accordance with guidelines from the CDC, we are requiring all Associates, customers, and vendors to wear cloth face coverings when inside our stores." However, sometime during the week of July 13, Dollar Tree changed their policy to read: "We also request that our customers wear face coverings, and require face coverings where required by state or local ordinance," backtracking on the mask requirement and instead framing it as a request unless superseded by local law.
Gap and its sister companies will require shoppers wear masks in their North American stores as of August 1. "Employees are already required to wear masks in our stores to help keep our customers and communities safe, and we're now asking our customers to help us do the same, with the exception of small children or those who are exempt due to an underlying medical condition," reads their statement.
Effective, Wednesday July 22, the company will require all shoppers to wear a mask when visiting its stores, joining associates who continue to wear masks.
Beginning Wednesday, July 22, all Home Depot shoppers will have to wear masks while inside all U.S. stores. According to a news release from the company, 85 percent of Home Depot stores currently require masks in compliance with local and state guidelines, and all store associates are currently required to wear masks in stores, distribution centers and other locations.
"We appreciate all of our associates who have been working so hard to serve our customers with the essential products they need throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to thank our customers for their cooperation as we work to protect everyone in our stores," said Ann-Marie Campbell, executive vice president of stores for The Home Depot, in a written statement.
The company said "social distancing captains" and other store associates will provide masks to shoppers who do not have one.
Beginning Monday, July 20, the company will require all customers to wear a face covering while shopping in its stores.
As of Monday, July 20, all customers must wear masks or face coverings in U.S. Lowe's locations. In a news release, the store said associates will offer free masks to customers who need them at the customer service desk of every store, while supplies last.
"As a retailer offering essential goods, we have a responsibility to our associates, customers and small businesses in communities nationwide to help provide a safe shopping experience," said Marvin R. Ellison, Lowe's president and CEO, in a written statement. "Throughout this pandemic, our associates have worked tirelessly so customers could get the goods and services they needed for their homes and small businesses. For the safety of everyone in our stores, we ask that customers wear masks, and to make this new standard less restrictive, we will make masks available to those who need them."
All McDonald's customers must wear a face covering when entering all U.S. restaurants beginning Aug. 1. Additionally, staff will be trained on how to deal with customers who are unable or unwilling to wear a mask.
"While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it's important we protect the safety of all employees and customers," according to a company statement.
As of Wednesday, July 15, Panera Bread customers are being asked to wear a mask inside their stores. Masks "are required at all times, except while seated and eating or drinking," according to Panera Bread's statement. If customers do not want to wear masks, Panera Bread states "we will happily serve them via Panera Curbside, Delivery or Drive-Thru."
On July 9, Starbucks updated its face mask policy so that "beginning on July 15, it will be requiring customers to wear facial coverings while visiting all company-owned café locations in the US."
Target has joined a list of the nation's largest retailers that will require customers to wear masks as cases of COVID-19 spike. The policy will go into effect Aug. 1. More than 80% of Target's 1,800 stores already require customers to wear masks due to local and state regulations.
Trader Joe's policy reads: "We request all customers wear a face covering while shopping in our stores."
"For the safety of our customers and employees, we require customers to wear cloth face coverings when visiting our stores," Verizon's policy states.
"While we're certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities," said Dacona Smith, Walmart's COO and Lance de la Rosa, Sam's Club's COO, in the joint statement. Walmart is now the largest retailer to require masks. Walmart is also taking the extra step of creating the role of "health ambassador," employees in "black polo shirts" who will be stationed near the store's entrance to remind customers of the need for a mask and to help those without one. The health ambassadors will receive special training to "help make the process as smooth as possible for customers" -- alluding to the recent spate of public conflicts with consumers unwilling to wear masks inside.
Whole Foods' mask policy states: "We are requesting that all customers wear masks while shopping in our stores to protect the health and safety of our team members and communities. Whole Foods Market will be providing face masks at the entrance of all stores for customers who do not have their own face covering. Stores will continue to follow local ordinances regarding personal protective equipment."