Retailers May Reinstate Mask Requirements

Increasing cases of the Delta variant threaten relaxed pandemic restrictions. 

July 29, 2021

Sign Requiring Face Masks

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Major retailers may reinstate mask requirements just 11 weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was okay to remove them, reported USA Today.

While no retailers have yet announced plans to require mask-wearing of customers, the number of cases of the Delta variant continue to grow. As NACS Daily reported yesterday, the CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors, especially in areas experiencing high transmission rates. Currently, the Delta variant accounts for more than 80% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, according to the CDC.

“The main issue with this will be one of compliance,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of consultancy GlobalData Retail. “There was already strong resistance to masks the first time around, and this will likely be stronger as re-masking will be seen as a retrograde step.”

Mask compliance has sparked debates throughout the pandemic as Americans receive mixed messages from authorities over whether they should wear face coverings in public. Representing major chains such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Walgreens, Home Depot and others, Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said that retailers understand that the guidance may evolve and “masks may be necessary again in some circumstances.”

“We ask customers to be mindful of the guidance provided by local retailers, and that they respect employees and their fellow customers who may continue to wear masks for the safety of themselves and their family,” Dodge said in a statement ahead of the CDC’s announcement.

“A national mask mandate is the only way we can finally take control of this virus, and every retail CEO in the country must recognize that now is the time for all of us to mask up so we can keep our economy open and communities safe,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers.

Coronavirus Resources

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.

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