Studies indicate that face mask wearing and face mask mandates both slow the spread of COVID-19, so obviously President Trump promised not to make face masks mandatory in a Fox News appearance on Sunday, citing “freedom” as his rationale. Though 20 state executives have issued a required-mask policy according to a report from NPR, governors in states with climbing case numbers, like Florida and Arizona, have also declined to issue orders requiring people to mask up in public.
But worry not, dear reader: This is America, which means that when the government fails us, we’ve got plenty of other powerful entities ready and willing to pick up the slack. That’s right, baby—we’re talking about corporations! According to a report from Forbes, some of the U.S.’s biggest retailers have slapped mask requirements in place for customers, boldly doing what our elected officials are too cowardly or steeped in partisanship to do themselves.
According to AARP, the 10 largest retailers in the U.S. have all implemented mask requirements for their retail locations. Here’s a breakdown of which chains are saying no mask, no service, and when they first instituted the policy.
Big box retailers
Bed, Bath & Beyond - currently effective, according to the Bed, Bath & Beyond website.
Best Buy - effective July 15.
BJ’s Wholesale Club - effective July 20.
Lowe’s - effective July 20.
Target - effective August 1.
Walmart - effective July 20.
Albertsons (including Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco) - effective July 21.
Aldi’s - effective July 27.
Kroger (including Dillons, Harris Teeter, Ralphs) - effective July 22.
Publix - effective July 21.
Trader Joe’s - effective July 20.
Wegman’s - currently effective, according to the Wegman’s website.
Panera Bread - effective July 15.
Peet’s Coffee - currently effective, according to the Peet’s Coffee website.
Starbucks - effective July 15.
Gap (including Old Navy, Banana Republic, Intermix) - effective August 1.
Kohl’s - effective July 20.
Drybar - effective May 15.
CVS - effective July 20.
Dollar Tree (including Family Dollar) - effective July 8.
Walgreens - effective July 20.
AT&T - currently effective, per AARP.
Verizon - currently effective, according to the Verizon website.
National chains aren’t the only ones laying down the law. The famously COVID-conscious Texas grocer HEB made mandatory masking a part of their existing precautions starting July 3, a move which stands in contrast to “Deep South supermarket” Winn-Dixie, which pledged not to require customers to wear masks in order to avoid putting “our associates in a position to navigate interpersonal conflict or [prohibiting] customers from shopping in our stores,” according to the Washington Post. Other retailers, specifically beauty stores and salons like Sephora, Ulta, Massage Envy, and European Wax Center, have so far declined to require masks for customers, only mandating that their employees wear them.
While Winn-Dixie is deeply wrong about whether or not they should require customers to wear masks (again, see science), they’re right about one thing: It’s pretty messed up to make their employees “navigate interpersonal conflict” from the rare but perennially red-faced, screaming COVID denier whose tirades regularly go viral online—see the Bebe-wearing “Trader Joe’s Karen” in California and the Florida man physically fighting a Walmart worker for two banner examples of situations that go above and beyond any retail employee’s job description.
Businesses actually don’t want to have to set and enforce their own mask policies: In an open letter published July 17, several larger retailers begged politicians to put mask policies in place so that ensuring customers’ safety doesn’t fall to the underpaid line-level workers in grocery and retail stores. But, based on the patchwork COVID-19 response we’ve seen so far, these retail chains will likely remain in charge of choices that could literally save lives. What’s more American than outsourcing?
Update 7/20/2020 3:00 pm: Winn-Dixie announced today it will require masks at its stores starting July 27.
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