Walmart says fully vaccinated employees can go without masks starting Tuesday

FILE PHOTO: A Walmart sign is seen inside its department store in West Haven, Connecticut, U.S., February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

(Reuters)


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CHICAGO (Reuters) — Walmart said on Friday that fully vaccinated employees will not need to wear a mask at work starting Tuesday, following the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The world's largest retailer said in an internal memo to U.S. stores, Sam's Clubs and supply chain facilities that unvaccinated workers must still wear face coverings. Vaccinated customers and Sam's Club members will be allowed to shop without a mask starting Friday.

The move makes Walmart the first major retailer to walk back its mandatory mask policy after the CDC on Thursday advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places.

"We are also reviewing whether masks may still be required for certain job codes for health and sanitation purposes and will share additional guidance soon," the memo seen by Reuters said.

Walmart was one of several retailers that in July began requiring that staff and customers wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Several grocers at the time were hesitant to make it a requirement, for fear of antagonizing shoppers, with numerous videos posted online on confrontations between customers and employees.

Masks will continue to be required by some city and state ordinances, and we will follow those requirements, Walmart said, adding that it would communicate with local stores, clubs or facility management teams as regulations change.

Walmart, which plans to update signage in its stores and facilities, said it will respect the choice of employees and shoppers who wish to continue wearing masks.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer also said it would give $75 to U.S. field associates who have been vaccinated, or as an incentive for them to get their shots.

"We're encouraging all associates to get vaccinated and help end this pandemic," the memo said.

(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Chris Reese)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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