Publix Is Taking A Huge Step To Protect The Health Of Its Customers

Publix, the fifth-largest grocery chain in the U.S. (via Progressive Grocer), has joined the wave of retailers requiring customers to wear face masks, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The Florida-based grocer, with more than 1,200 stores across the Southeast, follows Walmart, Sam's Club, Target, and CVS Pharmacy, who all recently announced a face-covering requirement. Costco has required customers to wear masks since early May.

The mask requirement at Publix starts on Tuesday, July 21. Young children and people with certain medical conditions will be exempt, although people who can't wear masks for medical reasons are asked to avoid shopping in the store. Publix recommends these shoppers pick up their groceries at the curb or have them delivered.

Publix and other big national retailers started requiring masks after the number of COVID-19 cases climbed far beyond its first U.S. peak, which took place back in April (via The New York Times). About two-thirds of the 1,252 Publix stores are in Florida, which has become a COVID-19 hot spot. Florida has the third-highest number of cases in the country, according to The New York Times. Half of all states have responded to the recent surge in cases by mandating masks. Florida, however, isn't one of them (via Forbes). Stores have had to step up and impose requirements where state governments won't.

Stores are requiring face masks where states aren't

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents several big chain stores, recently urged governors to mandate masks so stores don't have to bear the responsibility (via USA Today). "Retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties," the retail association's president said. At least 82 grocery store employees have died from COVID-19, according to Supermarket News.

Georgia, which has 189 Publix stores, will not mandate masks anytime soon. In fact, the state's governor just banned Georgia's cities from requiring masks (via CBS News). There is no national mask mandate, but the CDC recently issued a statement calling on Americans to wear masks in public. "All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.

Chains such as Publix were encouraged to require masks after Walmart, the world's largest retailer, took that step, according to the Orlando Sentinel. News4 in Jacksonville, Florida, just published a list of all the retailers who are requiring their customers to wear masks.