Walmart has announced that all shoppers will be required to wear masks starting July 20 at all of its locations nationwide as well as in all Sam's Club stores.
In a statement released Wednesday, Walmart, which owns Sam's Club, said that "to help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20."
The policy change comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to surge across the country. Some states have issued their own government mandates on face coverings and other states only recommend that they be worn in public. Walmart said in its release that about 65% of its more than 5,000 stores are in areas where masks are already mandated by local governments.
Grocery stores and large retailers across the country have had issued a variety of new COVID-19-related policies, from mandating masks being worn at all times to recommending face coverings but not requiring them.
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"While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities," the company said in the release. "According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected, it’s critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance."
Store employees will be placing signage out front about Walmart's new mask policy ahead of Monday's implementation.
Walmart has also created a new job — a "health ambassador" — an employee who will be stationed near store entrances to remind people that they must wear a mask.
"Our ambassadors will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers," Walmart and Sam's Club said.
The ambassadors will wear black polo shirts and will work with customers who show up to the store without any type of face covering "to try and find a solution." Sam's Club said it will have complimentary masks as well as masks that can be purchased inside the store, per the news release.
All stores will only have a single entrance in order to help ensure proper enforcement of the mask policy.
"We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering,'' the company said. "Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone."
The change in Walmart's policy comes amid several protests against wearing masks in numerous states, plus a host of videos that have gone viral on social media showing frequent altercations, verbal and physical, between store employees at various retailers and irate customers who refuse to wear masks.
A shopper in Florida was recorded shoving a Walmart employee. A New Jersey man was charged with making terroristic threats when he allegedly became combative after being asked to leave a store. A woman in Texas started throwing groceries from her cart after reportedly refusing to keep her mask on, and two locations of a taco shop in California had to close after customers kept yelling at employees over the restaurant's mask policy.
"We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,'' Walmart said. "We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our customers and members in wearing face coverings to protect their safety and the safety of our associates."