Walmart will reportedly lift masking requirements for fully vaccinated associates at both Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, according to internal documents seen by The Washington Post and other media outlets. Amazon also will reportedly remove its mask mandate for vaccinated employees, according to CBS and other sources.
Walmart will still require unvaccinated associates and employees who work in “clinical care settings” such as pharmacies to wear masks.
Walmart also will stop requiring daily health screenings at the end of February except in California, New York and Virginia, where they are required by state law. The retailer’s COVID-19 emergency leave policy, which provided additional paid leave for coronavirus-related absences, is set to expire at the end of March.
While workers are no longer required to wear a mask, Walmart said it will “support and respect an individual’s choice to continue wearing one” in its memo. It’s also possible that the mask mandate could return if cases spike again — the retailer first relaxed its mask rules in March 2021 before reimplementing them in July 2021 when the CDC updated its guidelines.
Amazon’s new policy will remain in line with local regulations and be “based on guidance from public health authorities as well as our own medical experts.” Additionally, the ecommerce company will restrict its paid leave due to COVID-19 only to those with at least one dose of the vaccine. As of March 18, the benefit will be restricted to those who are fully vaccinated. It remains to be seen which other retailers will follow suit in their own mask mandates or paid leave policies. Starbucks rolled back its COVID-19 testing requirements in January 2022, but has yet to relax its masking policy. Multiple states are lifting their indoor mask mandates, which may result in retailers allowing employees to work without masks in these regions.
However, some retailers are keeping their employees masked despite changing regulations. Albertsons will reportedly continue requiring shoppers to wear masks in its Texas stores even after the state lifts its mask mandate on March 10, according to USA Today. Kroger, Macy’s, Starbucks and Target have reportedly stated they will maintain their mask regulations as well.
“Although the state mandate will be lifted effective March 10, 2021, our front line associates have not had full access to the vaccine,” said Albertsons in a statement. “We will continue to look to the CDC’s recommendations to determine our safety practices and look forward to the vaccine being readily available not only to front line teams but to the general population in the coming months.”