BENTONVILLE, Ark. (CNN) — Walmart on Monday began requiring customers at all of its US stores to wear masks, becoming the largest retailer to mandate facial coverings as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
About 65% of Walmart's more than 5,000 stores, including its Sam's Club locations, are located in areas where there is a government mandate on face coverings.
"To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20," Walmart US chief operating officer Dacona Smith and Sam's Club chief operating officer Lance De La Rosa said in a blog post last week. "This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols."
Although no federal mandate to wear a mask exists, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone "should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public." The CDC said "face coverings are meant to protect other people."
Walmart said it will enforce the new policy by stationing "health ambassadors" near the entrance to remind shoppers of the requirement.
Other national chains have made similar moves as Walmart. Kroger and Kohl's announced they would start requiring all customers to wear masks, signaling that more retailers are lining up behind mask-wearing mandates. The National Retail Federation, the main lobbying group for the industry, also called on retailers to require masks for customers.
Most major retailers and grocers initially hesitated to enact their own mask mandates for customers during the pandemic, partly over fears of antagonizing shoppers who refuse to wear them. Retailers have said they are reluctant to put their employees in the position of enforcing mask requirements.
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