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Why is Walmart requiring masks? Here’s what to know as new rules take effect

Why is Walmart requiring masks? Here’s what to know as new rules take effect
[Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images]

If you’re still walking around in public without a mask, you can check Walmart off the list of places that will welcome you inside. The retail giant announced today that it will require customers to wear face covering when entering Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Here are a few things to know about the rules:

Why is Walmart doing this?

It’s in line with recommendations from public health officials. Both the CDC and the WHO recommend face coverings for people in public spaces, and there’s good evidence that masks help. (Here’s a nice roundup of studies from the UC San Francisco.) Most of Walmart’s locations—about 65%, according to the company—already operate in places where local government mask-wearing mandates are in effect. But the pandemic is far from over and more needs to be done, as coronavirus infections are still increasing in most states.

When does this go into effect?

Monday, July 20. That’s five days to get used to the idea.

What if I forget to bring a mask?

Walmart says it will have employees on hand who will “work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution.” You can identify these special employees by their black polo shirts. What exactly does that mean? It sounds like the company is still trying to figure it out to some extent. “We are currently considering different solutions for customers when this requirement takes effect on July 20,” Walmart executives wrote in a blog post today.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes. According to the company, “We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering. Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone.”

What if I just refuse to put one on and walk in anyway?

You’ll be making trouble for employees who are just trying to do their jobs, and you’ll probably end up going viral in a way that reflects poorly on your personal brand.

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