Coronavirus response: Publix, Walmart make face masks mandatory for employees

Coronavirus

Joel Porro and Lizz Hernandez wear gloves and protective mask as they put bags in the trunk of their car after shopping at Walmart Supercenter as the coronavirus pandemic continues on Sunday, April 5, 2020 in Miami. (David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As health officials encourage people to wear masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, two grocery chains have made it mandatory for employees.

Both Walmart and Publix announced they are requiring employees to wear masks or other face coverings at work. The mandate went into effect Monday for both stores.

“This includes our stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, as well as in our corporate offices,” Walmart’s president and CEO John Furner said in a joint statement with Kath McLay, the president and CEO of Sam’s Club. “We’ll also be encouraging customers and members to wear face coverings when they shop with us.”

Publix added that employees who are not normally required to wear gloves will be allowed to voluntarily wear them if they can still safely perform their job duties.

“We are providing face coverings for all of our associates and plastic gloves for customer service and pharmacy associates until our supplies are depleted,” company officials said in an online statement. “At that time, associates are required to provide their own face covering, and customer service and pharmacy associates may use their personal supply of gloves.”

Walmart employees will be allowed to provide their own masks as long as they meet certain guidelines. The company said it can also provide employees with one as they pass health screenings and temperature checks.

In their statement, the Walmart and Sam’s Club CEOs said they made the decision based on updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

“Although most state and local governments do not mandate the use of face coverings in public settings, the CDC has reported that recent studies show a significant portion of individuals with the virus lack symptoms and can transmit the virus,” the statement said. “With this knowledge, we believe it is simply in everyone’s best interest to use masks or face coverings to curb the spread of this disease.”

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