Walmart Is Considering A Huge Safety Change Soon

Update: Since publication, Walmart has announced it will be requiring face masks in all stores. "To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20. This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols," the company's statement reads.

The world's largest retailer, Walmart, might make face masks mandatory in all of its U.S. stores (via USA Today). "We don't currently... mandate that in our other stores, but that's obviously something that's on our minds," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on Monday, July 13.

The science is clear: The CDC recommends people wear face coverings in public because they help prevent the spread of COVID-19. At least a dozen U.S. states have imposed some sort of face mask requirement (via The New York Times), and some businesses already refuse service unless a customer is wearing a mask in their stores — Costco, for example, adopted a face mask policy back in early May (via Business Insider). 

Face mask mandates have customers divided

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart and other big chains, would prefer that governments set this rule, not stores. The association believes different rules in different parts of the country have led to confusion and sometimes anger among customers, according to USA Today. 

One viral video shows a woman making an angry scene after she was called out for not following a city mandate to wear a mask at a Los Angeles Trader Joe's (via ABC7). Some people opposed to wearing face masks have argued the requirement violates their rights (via the Tallahassee Democrat). In other cases, including at the Los Angeles Trader Joe's, people have claimed a breathing problem makes it unsafe for them to wear masks (via The Verge).

While people often cite their asthma as a reason for not wearing a mask, the director of the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute said such a severe breathing limitation occurs in only 1 percent of asthma patients. People with asthma that severe are at high risk with COVID-19 and should stay home in any case, the director said.

Stores have the right to refuse service if you don't wear a mask

Stores have the right to enforce mask rules on their private property, as reported by KIRO7, just as they can kick people out per their "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy. If a person with a disability is unable to wear a mask, then stores are required under federal law to make some accommodation, such as providing a face shield or offering curbside pickup (via USA Today).

As the CDC makes clear, people who wear masks are protecting others in case they are spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 without realizing it. Retail employees are especially vulnerable, given the amount of contact they have with people. As of late June, at least 82 workers in the grocery industry alone have died from the disease, according to United Food and Commercial Workers International (via Supermarket News). "We urge shoppers to think of themselves, think of their families, and think of us when they are at the store. Please wear a mask," UFCW member Susan said Hernandez said.