After a fleeting few months when the end of the COVID-19 crisis seemed on the horizon for the U.S., the disease’s delta variant has morphed into a grave new threat. According to recent documents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the delta variant is much more contagious—about as transmissible as chickenpox—and could cause deadlier illness. It’s now responsible for more than 80% of new cases in the country, and the World Health Organization has said it expects delta to become the dominant strain globally within the coming months.
In light of these grim developments, many businesses have begun tightening COVID-19 restrictions. On Friday, the country’s biggest retailer, Walmart, said it would require all employees to wear face masks regardless of vaccination status, in its stores located in COVID-19 hot spots as designated by the CDC. The policy applies to the Walmart-owned bulk-goods warehouse Sam’s Club as well.
The move comes after Walmart had relaxed its mask policy in May, allowing fully vaccinated employees and customers to forego the masks in stores. Other major retailers made similar updates to their rules, including Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Office Depot, and Dollar General. At that time, those policies were in line with CDC guidance.
Now Walmart is among the first to reinstate mask mandates after the CDC reversed course on its guidance this week, recommending that all people wear masks indoors whether vaccinated or not.
And amid surges in COVID-19 cases across the country, some historic New York arts institutions are going a step further. Broadway’s theaters, which revealed they would finally be reopening in September, said they would require all performers, crew, staff, and audience members to be fully vaccinated. Young children, and those with medical or religious exemptions, can instead show proof of a negative PCR test. The rule, which extends to all 41 theaters in the city, will stay in place through October.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Opera house will also require artists, orchestra, chorus, and guests to be fully vaccinated—although unlike with Broadway, masks will be optional.
Carnegie Hall will also require proof of vaccination to attend, and children under the age of 12 will be prohibited.