A day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new masking guidelines, retailers started announcing changes to mask policies for fully vaccinated customers.
Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco and Publix were the first to confirm updates to mask requirements, leading the way for mask-free shopping except where required by state or local mandate. In some cases, vaccinated store employees can also go to work without a mask.
Many retailers, including Apple, Target, CVS and Walgreens, say they are still evaluating the CDC guidance but say they could update policies.
Starbucks updates its policy starting Monday and makes masks “optional for vaccinated customers beginning Monday, May 17, unless local regulations require them by law.”
So far, businesses have said proof of the vaccine won’t need to be shown and will be on the honor system.
Publix’s mask update started Saturday and is for both fully vaccinated shoppers and workers.
“In accordance with CDC guidelines, individuals who are not fully vaccinated are required to use face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix store,” the grocery store chain said in a statement Friday.
Bloomberg reported Friday night that Apple stores will continue to require masks and follow other COVID-19 procedures as the company continues to evaluate health and safety measures. Apple was one of the first retailers to mandate masks.
The CDC said Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans, for the most part, no longer need to wear masks indoors and don’t have to wear masks outdoors, even in crowded spaces.
But privately-owned businesses can still require masks, which most of the nation’s largest retailers started mandating last summer. There are other exceptions for when the CDC recommends masks such as in health care settings, transportation hubs such as airports and stations, planes and public transportation.
Conflicts at businesses and viral videos of shoppers’ tirades erupted amid the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC advised stores not to argue with angry anti-mask customers.
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Lisa LaBruno, senior executive vice president at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a statement the CDC guidance “creates ambiguity for retailers because it fails to fully align with state and local orders.”
LaBruno urged customers to follow 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,” LaBruno said.
No masks for vaccinated customers
Some exceptions apply, including in states and cities that have local mandates.
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Sam’s Club
- Starbucks (Starts Monday, May 17)
- Trader Joe’s
Stores still requiring masks, for now