Businesses large and small are trying to adapt to the unexpected recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released on Thursday, that Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can hang up their masks.
CDC announcement that people who fully vaccinated can remain without a mask indoors is causing companies across the country to puzzle over how to reconcile the new guidelines with their own safety practices, including whether vaccinated customers and employees should be treated differently than people who have yet to be vaccinated.
Some of the nation’s largest retailers said Friday they have no immediate plans to change their policies and will continue to require customers and workers to wear masks while on site. Other companies have said they are revising their protocols, while tourism players like Disney are trying to simplify the rules for the use of masks for visitors. On Friday, grocery chain Trader Joe’s became the first prominent US retailer to abandon its policy on masks for vaccinated shoppers.
Then came Walmart, the # 1 retailer in the country with over 4,700 stores in the United States. Walmart said in a memo to employees that vaccinated shoppers can shop without masks as of Friday. Fully vaccinated employees will be able to work without masks starting May 18, although workers who have not been fully vaccinated will still be required to wear masks, he added. The company also said it pays $ 75 bonuses to vaccinated workers as a “thank you vaccine,” but employees will need to provide proof of vaccination in order to receive the money.
“We will continue to require unvaccinated customers and members to wear face masks in our stores and clubs. We will update the signage at our facilities to reflect this, ”said a note to Walmart and Sam’s Club employees.
No mask, no service
Kroger, the largest US supermarket chain, said the company will continue to require everyone in its stores to wear masks and will continue to encourage social distancing. The company also said it is reviewing the latest CDC guidance to develop “the next phase of our policy.”
Retailers Home Depot and Target also said they would maintain their coronavirus policies for the time being, including requiring customers and workers to wear masks and continue to distance themselves from society.
“Target will continue to demand all of our coronavirus protection measures across all stores, including masks and social distancing, while we check [Thursday’s] a CDC spokesman said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
Macy’s, Starbucks and other major retailers are also weighing recommendations before dropping their mask requirements.
The decision by some businesses to continue enforcing mask policies is understandable given the lingering health risks and public sensitivities around vaccinations, said Helen Rella, an employment and placement attorney at law firm Wilk Auslander.
“Unfortunately, in retail stores open to the public, there is no way to determine if visitors are vaccinated other than asking for evidence before entering, which is unlikely,” she said.
Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek noted the new CDC leadership and said he expects it to have an immediate impact on business.
The revised health agency guidelines are “very big news for us, especially if someone was in Florida in mid-summer wearing a mask,” Chapek told investors during a teleconference Thursday after the CDC’s policy change was announced. “We’ve already started to increase our capabilities” at Disney rides, added Chapek, who predicted that the softening of the recommendation would quickly increase traffic to Disney theme parks, water parks and more.
Rival amusement park operator Six Flags Entertainment told CBS MoneyWatch in an email that the company is reviewing new CDC guidelines and adjusting its mask policy “with the health and safety of our guests and team members in mind.”
Six Flags currently requires all guests over 2 years old to wear masks at its 27 amusement parks across North America.
Casino operator Wynn Resorts was one of the first to tell guests they could stop wearing masks, citing new CDC management.
“Starting tonight, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore will advise guests that they are not required to wear a mask if they are fully vaccinated and must wear a mask if they are not. The resort hopes guests will take appropriate precautions. about their personal vaccination status, “the company said in a statement. statement Thursday.
The company says the same policy applies to Wynn employees.
Despite the urgency of simplifying COVID-19 protocols for some businesses, the union, representing 1.3 million food and retail workers, said the latest CDC leadership could endanger its members. The new policy does not take into account the safety of workers across the country who have to deal directly with the public in stores and supermarkets, the United Food and Commercial Workers said in a press release.
Frontline workers are again being forced to monitor whether clients are complying with public safety rules – in this case, according to the labor group, the forced wearing of masks among the unvaccinated.
“Although we all share the desire to return to normal life without masks, [the CDC] the leadership is confusing and does not consider how it will affect key workers, who often encounter people who have not been vaccinated and refuse to wear masks, ”UFCW International President Mark Perrone said in a statement.
Trader Joe: “We Trust Our Clients”
Supermarket chain Trader Joe’s became one of the first major retailers on Friday to drop mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers. The company has 530 stores in the United States, and disguises remain mandatory for employees.
A grocery spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch the following explanation of the new policy: “In accordance with CDC guidelines, customers who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks when shopping in our stores. We do not require proof of vaccination as we trust our clients to follow CDC guidelines. Currently, our crew members still require masks. ”
Costco: local regulations apply
At nearly 560 Costco stores across the country, local regulations are important. Craig Jelinek, president and CEO of a member-only retail chain, said statement Friday, when fully vaccinated participants and guests can enter without masks or face shields at Costco stores where there is no mandate to use masks in the state or local jurisdiction.
Masks are still needed in Costco locations where state or local mask regulations remain in force, Jelinek said.
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