As businesses across the country continue to implement new practices to help stem the spread of coronavirus, face masks have become the norm in public places with several stores recently implementing mandatory mask-wearing policies. But not everyone is willing to follow the recommended protocols.
Last week, Costco announced it would be requiring all shoppers to wear a mask or face covering "that covers the mouth and nose at all times" while in stores nationwide. Those under the age of 2 are exempt from the policy.
The retailer's decision is line with current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been advising people to wear some type of facial covering "in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission." The CDC says that even simple face coverings are better than nothing in order to "slow the spread" and limit the transmission of coronavirus, even among those who don't know they might be infected.
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Despite this recommendation, which has been issued for people in all 50 states, Costco faced immediate backlash from a sizable number of people who declared they would no longer shop at the big-box retailer if forced to cover their faces.
Ashley Smith, a leader at ReOpen NC, has been calling for a boycott of both Costco and Whole Foods stores.
“We cannot let them normalize the fear — it allows them to drag out the closures and restrictions and will make it easier for them to do this to the country every flu season moving forward,” Smith posted on Facebook.
Whole Foods, which began offering free masks to its customers this week, told TODAY its employees would not turn customers away who refuse to wear masks.
Others said they believed Costco's rule is a violation of their personal freedoms.
However, many people, including those who claim to be health care workers, applauded Costco's new mandate.
In addition to requiring all shoppers to wear masks, Costco is continuing to enforce social distancing protocols in stores by limiting how many shoppers may be let inside any warehouse at one time and encouraging shoppers to maintain their distance while shopping.
"The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing,'' the company said in its announcement. "Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises."
Despite the numerous objections on social media, many Costco stores appear to be doing just fine since the new rule went into effect. While a representative from the retailer's corporate office was not immediately available for comment, employees at multiple store locations told TODAY that most customers have been complying with the new regulation without incident.
A store manager at a Costco located in Nashville, Tennessee, told TODAY that their location has experienced “no problems” since Monday and all customers have been donning masks or facial coverings before entering the store. A Plano, Texas-based Costco employee said most shoppers have been following the face mask-wearing rule and the few who did complain about it “were just not allowed to enter the store.”