May 17, 2021
Target, Home Depot, Wegmans and a number of other U.S. retailers will continue to require customers and employees to wear masks in-store while they review the new federal guidance from the CDC—which has announced that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear face coverings in most situations, The Washington Post reports.
.However, industry groups and workers’ advocates already are pushing back–saying that they fear enforcement will become increasingly difficult and contentious. What’s more, workers unions have blasted the policy change, saying it puts store employees at increased risk of getting sick.
And in acknowledgement of such hazards, some retail chains will go with the flow—among them, Trader Joe’s, which no longer will require fully vaccinated shoppers to wear masks, although it is unclear how the retailer would determine which shoppers have been inoculated. Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for the grocery chain, said most other COVID-related policies, including face coverings for employees, social distancing rules and frequent store cleanings, will remain in place.
“We are vigilant; reviewing federal, state, and local health advisories; meeting or exceeding government mandates; and where it makes sense, adjusting efforts,” the company said on its website.
The trade group for the industry, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, has not taken sides, saying: “We urge all retail customers and guests to follow a store’s safety protocols including wearing a mask and social distancing. Frontline workers deserve this respect. Retailers encourage customers that do not want to wear a mask to shop online or via curbside pickup offerings.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, said the CDC’s guidance fails to consider the impact on essential workers, “who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”
More than 200 retail workers have died from the coronavirus, and thousands more have been infected, according to workers groups and media reports, although actual numbers are probably much higher.
“Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but we must not let our guard down,” Marc Perrone, the union’s president said in a statement. “Essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?”