Some Employees Frown on Dropping Mask Mandates

OSHA is reviewing the new CDC guidance and plans to update its rules soon.

May 18, 2021

Stop Mask Required Sign

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—As major retailers drop facemask mandates in their stores, some frontline employees are concerned that the new policy will increase safety and health risks in their workplaces, reports Bloomberg.

Walmart, along with Costco, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, was among the first employers to ease the mask policy for vaccinated shoppers. As NACS Daily reported yesterday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance last week that advised that fully vaccinated people could safely go mask-less in most indoor and outdoor settings. The exceptions include health-care facilities, public transportation and places where localities still require masks.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) said it is reviewing the recent CDC guidance and will update its materials on the agency’s website accordingly. Until those updates are complete, it directs employees and employers to refer to the CDC guidance for information on measures appropriate to protect fully vaccinated workers.

Some foodservice and grocery workers worry that the CDC's change puts them at greater risk, as it largely relies on an honor system.

“Essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures,” said Marc Perrone, president of United Food and Commercial Workers.

Governors in many states moved quickly to drop mask requirements for people who are vaccinated, and on Sunday, Perrone called on state governors to keep the mask mandates in place, saying that the pandemic is far from over. The CDC recommendation makes it clear though that local governments are still allowed to impose tighter restrictions in their areas if necessary.

“Your anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are not necessarily going to be honest with people about whether they’ve been vaccinated or not,” said Nancy Baxter, head of Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, who added that the CDC’s move may result in more infections.

In addition to retail, other venues are easing mask requirements without eliminated face coverings completely. Walt Disney World Resort, which was closed for its longest period of time ever in its 50-year history early on in the pandemic, made masks optional in common outdoor areas but still requires them indoors, on all attractions, theaters and transportation.