As dozens of states continue to report rising numbers of coronavirus cases, one of America's largest retail corporations has opted to roll out a new policy. Starting next week, Walmart will require all shoppers to wear face masks when inside its stores, the company announced Wednesday. Walmart's new face mask policy will also apply to Sam's Clubs stores.
"As the number of confirmed cases has spiked in communities across the country recently, so too have the number and types of face covering mandates being implemented," Chief Operating Officer of Walmart Dacona Smith and Chief Operating Officer of Sam's Club Lance de la Rosa said in a joint statement issued Wednesday. "Currently about 65% of our more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is some form of 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."
To help customers adhere to the retailer's mask policy, Walmart said it would train store associates in the policy, post clear signage at store entrances alerting customers to the policy, and establish a Health Ambassador role in each of their stores. Health Ambassadors will receive special training and be tasked with reminding customers of Walmart's mask requirement and working with customers who attempt to enter the store without one.
While Smith and de la Rosa did not elaborate on specifics in Wednesday's announcement, they said the company was mulling over a variety of different solutions for customers who showed up to shop without the required face mask.
"We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering," Smith and de la Rosa said in their statement. "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."
Although Walmart did not expand on such exceptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend face masks be worn by children under the age of 2 or by anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or who has trouble breathing. The CDC has also recommended that face masks not be placed on individuals who would be unable to remove the mask by themselves.
Walmart announced its storewide face mask policy the day after federal health officials revealed the United States could get its rising coronavirus case numbers under control within four to eight weeks if everyone wore a face mask when in public. "I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control," CDC Director Robert Redfield said Tuesday, as reported by The Washington Post.
On Wednesday, Walmart acknowledged that face masks could be a vital tool in curbing the spread of coronavirus. "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," Smith and de la Rosa said. "We know some people have differing opinions on this topic. 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."
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.