Walmart Just Made A Huge Change To Its Employee Mask Policy

The next time you go to Walmart, you might notice something a little different about the staff. That's because the chain just announced that they are ending their employer-mandated rule that all employees wear masks while working inside the store (via Washington Post). Unvaccinated employees will still be required to wear a mask, but for those who are vaccinated, they can go mask-free, though the company noted that vaccinated employees who want to keep wearing a mask are welcome to do so. Furthermore, people working in in-store health clinics and pharmacies will still need to wear a mask, whether or not they are vaccinated.

The change will apply to employees of Sam's Club, too, and it comes with a couple of other changes. Employees in every state except California, New York, and Virginia won't need to complete a daily health screening before work anymore, and Walmart's COVID-19 emergency leave program will also be ending in March, meaning employees will no longer be eligible for extra paid leave for COVID-19-related absences from work. Since first implementing a store-wide mask mandate in 2020, Walmart has made a few changes to their policy as COVID-19 case numbers have risen and fallen, but the CDC doesn't necessarily agree with their latest action.

The CDC doesn't necessarily agree with Walmart's new measures

Walmart has nearly 1.6 million employees, so their repeal of the mask mandate could potentially have a large impact on public health in areas where they have busy stores. Just last week, the CDC director noted that many areas of the country are still experiencing "high and substantial transmission," and they recommend masking in those areas when in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status (per Washington Post).

President Joe Biden also recently chimed in on moves to repeal mask mandates at the state level, saying "I've committed that I would follow the science...and I think it's probably premature."

On the Walmart subreddit, workers were split on the new rules. One noted that since the store can't force someone to reveal if they're vaccinated or not, this could open the floor for unvaccinated employees to ditch their masks, too. Some worried that it would be a short-lived repeal if cases spike in the future, and others joked that they would still wear their mask so customers couldn't see their facial expressions.

Regardless, the new rules are in place at Walmart and Sam's Club, so that's why the next time you go shopping, you might see more unmasked employees than you're used to.