Walmart Will Stop Requiring Masks for Employees and Customers

A customer and employee wear masks at a Walmart store in North Brunswick, N.J., July 20, 2020. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Walmart Inc., the nation’s largest private employer, announced Friday that it no longer would require vaccinated employees and customers to wear masks in stores and warehouses outside of municipalities that mandate it.

The company’s decision follows new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or social-distance in most venues and settings. Walmart workers can start forgoing face coverings May 18, Walmart disclosed. Vaccinated shoppers do not need masks, effective immediately.

The CDC said it updated the guidance after new research concluded that inoculation reduces the risk of infection and transmission as well as disease and death.

Many industrial sectors are still debating how to adapt business policy to the CDC’s directive. In many cases, local and state municipalities still mandate stricter COVID-19 restrictions than the CDC guidance now stipulates.

Certain grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s have fully relaxed the mask requirement for shoppers. “We encourage customers to follow the guidance of health officials,” the company tweeted. A spokesperson reported that the company won’t require proof of vaccination for entry for those who choose not to wear a mask.

Other supermarkets, such as Kroger Co., still plan to enforce masks and encourage social distancing. Car manufacturers General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. said they are adhering to existing policies pending guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has jurisdiction over their workplaces and still requires mask-wearing and social distancing.

Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Co., said he anticipates that domestic theme parks will soon be allowed to expand capacity following the new CDC guidelines. Walt Disney World has reportedly been deliberating whether to lift the mask mandates inside its parks.

“Today’s guidance that we got from the CDC in terms of those that were vaccinated do not necessarily need to wear masks anymore, both outdoors and indoors, is very big news for us,” Chapek said in a call with company analysts.

“Today’s guidance,” he said Thursday, “is very big news for us, particularly if anyone has been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on.”

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