GASSAWAY, W.Va.—As retailers nationwide increasingly require customers to wear face masks when shopping in their stores, GoMart, a convenience store chain with 123 stores across Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia, on Friday announced that it is asking customers to wear a face covering due to COVID-19, WCHS ABC 8 reports.
Many convenience stores began asking customers to wear face masks inside their stores during the spring amid directives from state governors and local public health officials, posting signs at store entrances as reminders.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on April 3 advised Americans to voluntarily wear cloth face coverings in public settings when social distancing was impossible, reversing an earlier stance by federal public health officials that the general public shouldn’t buy or wear face masks.
“With the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 spiking across the country, we want to do our part to help slow the spread and protect those around us,” GoMart General Manager Phil Shuman said in the release. “In addition to the enhanced cleaning, disinfection, social distancing and other precautionary measures we are already taking, we are now asking our customers to join our family of employees in wearing a mask or face covering inside all of our stores.”
GoMart said it would exempt children younger than age 9, individuals with certain breathing conditions and people who can’t otherwise remove a mask on their own, as outlined in West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s executive order.
Virginia also requires face coverings when spending time in indoor public places. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recommends Ohioans wear face masks when in public but hasn’t issued an executive order mandating them. Some Ohio counties, however, do have face mask mandates.
“We are abiding by the mandate that has already been put in place in these states and going a step further by putting out a company-wide mask mandate, which allows us to maintain consistency across all stores,” Shuman said in the release. “We believe this is in everyone’s best interest, and we appreciate the understanding and cooperation.”
Across the U.S., face mask policies vary by state and locality, and enforcement is often left up to local health officials or police or sheriff’s departments. California, Michigan and Oregon are among the states placing the enforcement onus on businesses. Because the rules typically exempt children and people with underlying health conditions, enforcement can be difficult—and sometimes isn’t a priority, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) last week encouraged all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy of requiring customers to wear face coverings or masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The NRF is a part of a group of U.S. business leaders who called for the White House coronavirus task force and the National Governors Association to establish guidance on metrics for imposing face-mask requirements and to develop model mandatory mask policies that are simple and don’t leave enforcement up to businesses. The groups cited worries over confrontations between customers and employees who try to enforce existing mask policies.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.