With coronavirus cases mounting around the country, more large food retailers today announced face mask mandates for customers at all of their stores.
Next week, Albertsons Cos., Publix Super Markets, Meijer, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens will begin requiring shoppers to wear face coverings in all locations, as will Schnuck Markets and Associated Retail Operations. Aldi plans to require face protection in all stores later this month, while Target plans to do so starting in August. The comprehensive face mask policies come as the incidence of coronavirus continues to rise across the country and amid ongoing meda reports of face mask disputes and attacks in stores involving customers and retail associates. Many businesses, including retailers, have been reluctant to require masks because of potentially aggressive responses from customers.
Albertsons and Publix said their chainwide face covering policies will go into effect on Tuesday.
Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons noted that state and local measures already mandate face masks for consumers when shopping or in public spaces. The retailer operates 2,252 food and drug stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under such banners as Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw's, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Haggen.
“Throughout this pandemic, the health and safety of everyone who walks through our doors has been our top priority. We require our associates to wear masks, and across a majority of our stores we already require customers to wear face coverings to comply with local ordinances,” Albertsons said in a statement on Thursday. “Effective July 21, 2020, we will require customers across all of our locations to wear face coverings when shopping with us, for their protection and for that of our associates. We appreciate everyone’s diligence, cooperation and support as we all work together to get through these difficult times as safely as possible.”
Publix cited findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that face coverings can provide effective protection against COVID-19 and reduce the transmission of the virus. The Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer, with 1,251 stores in seven Southeastern states, said that it will posting signs at store entrances and air in-store store announcements that face masks will be required as of July 21. Publix is encouraging people unable to wear a face covering due to medical conditions to consider its Publix Delivery and/or Curbside Pickup online grocery services.
“With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to grow and current CDC guidance indicating face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19, we believe requiring face coverings in our stores is another way we can do our part to help protect our communities,” stated Maria Brous, director of communications for Publix.
As of July 20, supercenter operator Meijer will require all customers to wear a face covering when shopping at any store or Meijer Express station. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer said the new policy comes in addition to stores in areas already subject to state and municipal orders mandating face masks. Customers who prefer to not come inside stores can use Meijer Home Delivery or Curbside pickup or pay-at-the-pump options, according to the company, which operates 253 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
Hard-discount grocer Aldi is instituting its face mask requirement in all of its roughly 2,000 U.S. locations effective July 27. "The health and safety of our employees, customers and the communities we serve will always be our highest priority. With that focus in mind, effective July 27, face coverings will be required to enter Aldi stores. We continue to monitor safety protocols from the CDC as well as state and local health officials," Bavaria, Ill.-based Aldi U.S. said in a statement. "Most recently, the CDC stated that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 and could reduce the spread of the virus. 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."
Minneapolis-based Target said Thursday it will begin requiring shoppers at all of its 1,871 stores to wear face masks or coverings beginning Aug. 1.
“This builds on the more than 80% of our stores that already require guests to wear face coverings due to local and state regulations,” Target said. “Given the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the role masks play in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, our store team members also already wear masks when they come to work, which we provide for them.”
Customers without a face covering will be provided with a disposable masks at the store entrance, where associates also will remind shoppers that they need face protection to come inside, Target reported. In-store signage and overhead audio also will communication the new mask policy, and the retailer said it will guide customers to use its contactless shopping options, including Store Pickup, Drive Up curbside pickup, Target.com delivery and Shipt same-day delivery.
Between today and Monday, when its face mask requirement becomes effective, St. Louis-based Schnucks plans to train associates on protocols at store entrances and post signs informing customers of the new policy. The chain operates 113 stores in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. Also, Schnucks Rewards members will receive a notice about the updated face covering requirement via email, and information will be posted on the company’s website.
Schnuck Markets Chairman and CEO Todd Schnuck: “We understand that there are a variety of opinions about masks. However, the CDC and other health experts are aligned on the benefits of facial coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19.” (Photo courtesy of Schnucks)
“From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we moved quickly to respond to the ever-changing environment and prioritize safety and cleanliness in our stores,” Schnucks Chairman and CEO Todd Schnuck said in a statement. “We have been monitoring this situation closely, and given the escalating number of positive COVID-19 cases in the regions we serve, we believe requiring masks for teammates, vendors and, now, customers is in the best interest of public safety.”
Schnucks will provide complimentary masks, one per customer, while supplies last. Signs will be posted at all store entrances prompting customers without face protection to request a mask before entering. The grocer said associates will be stationed at entrances of all stores from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (and during designated senior hours) to help shoppers understand the face covering requirement, as well as to offer masks to those without one and sanitize shopping carts.
“We understand that there are a variety of opinions about masks,” Schnuck added. “However, the CDC and other health experts are aligned on the benefits of facial coverings in reducing the spread of COVID-19.”
Salt Lake City-based Associated Retail Operations, whose supermarkets are locally owned and operated under Associated Food Stores, said Thursday that its Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s Market, Lin’s and Fresh Market retail banners in Utah will require shoppers to wear a face mask effective July 20. Disposable face coverings will be provided free at store entrances to customers who don’t have one, while supplies last.
“As local grocers, we feel a responsibility to help our communities battle this unprecedented illness. We also recognize our stores are primary gathering spaces in the community and want to do our part to encourage overall public health,” commented David Rice, president of Associated Retail Operations. “This new requirement is based on our desire to do everything in our power to help slow the spread while keeping our team members and customers safe.”
Through late afternoon on Thursday, the United States had 3.55 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 138,040 deaths from the disease. Thirty-six states now mandate face coverings in public spaces, as 19 states are seeing their highest average daily COVID-19 case increases, CNN reported. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union is calling for a national face-mask policy for people in stores and other public settings, as are the National Retail Federation (NRF) and other key business groups.
Yesterday, Walmart and Kroger announced face mask requirements for customers at all stores, effective July 20 and July 22, respectively. They joined large grocery retailers that already had enacted face mask mandates for shoppers at all stores, including Costco Wholesale, Dollar Tree, H-E-B and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
The nation’s largest drugstore chains, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens — already busy rolling out coronavirus testing sites across their market footprints — both plan to require customers to wear face masks at stores starting July 20.
“We know that face covers can play a vital role in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” stated Kevin Ban, chief medical officer at Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, which has nearly 9,300 U.S. stores. “As cases continue to rise in many parts of the country, it’s critical we, as businesses and members of the community, do everything we can to support recommendations of health officials, both locally and nationally.”
Both Walgreens and CVS said they already required face masks for all employees and adhered to state and local mandates for face coverings in their stores. However, the chains noted that the rising incidence of the virus, and the CDC’s findings on the efficacy of masks, demand stronger action.
“With the recent spike in COVID-19 infections, we're joining others in taking the next step and requiring all customers to wear face coverings when entering any of our stores throughout the country effective Monday, July 20,” CVS Health Chief Operating Officer Jon Roberts said in a statement. CVS has about 10,000 pharmacy locations nationwide, including in Target stores. “To be clear, we’re not asking our store employees to play the role of enforcer. What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering.”
*Editor's Note: Article updated with face mask policy information from more retailers.