Food Businesses are on Frontlines of Mask Debate

Although there is no federal mandate for Americans to wear masks out in public, businesses are taking measures into their own hands.

Last week, Starbucks announced that it would require customers to wear masks beginning July 15, reported CNN (July 9). The mandate is a part of Starbucks’ “continued effort in prioritizing the health and well-being” of its employees and customers during the pandemic, the company said in a statement.

The requirement supersedes local laws in some states or cities that might not require wearing one. Starbucks indicated customers who refuse to wear a mask inside can order from the drive-thru, curbside pickup, or delivery.

Retailers in particular are on the frontline of the war over mask-wearing. The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently issued a statement encouraging all retailers to adopt a nationwide policy that requires customers to wear face coverings or masks to protect the health and well-being of customers, associates, and partners. The association previously asked for help from state governors regarding mask mandates, saying various rules across the country created confusion for shoppers which led to conflict between customers and workers.

“Stores are private businesses that can adopt policies permitted by law for the health and safety of their associates and their customers,” the organization said in a statement. “Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right. If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk.”

The NRF applauded companies such as Starbucks, Walmart, and Costco for their implementation of nationwide mask mandates. BJ’s Wholesale Club and Kroger also mandated mask use.

At Walmart and Sam’s Club, mask use will be required at stores and clubs nationwide starting July 20. “While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities,” the companies said in a statement.

In addition to posting clear signage at the front of stores, Walmart created the role of “health ambassador” and will station them near the entrance to remind those without a mask of the new requirements. At Sam’s Clubs, associates at the entrance will follow the same process with members. Complimentary masks will be provided if the member doesn’t have one, or members can purchase masks in the club.

CVS and Target are the latest companies to join the list of retailers requiring masks, reported Fox 59 (July 16).

“We’re joining others in taking the next step and requiring all customers to wear face coverings,” CVS tweeted July 16. Its policy goes into effect July 20.

Target said in a statement it would start requiring masks or face coverings starting Aug. 1 in all stores. “This builds on the more than 80% of our stores that already require guests to wear face coverings due to local and state regulations,” it said. Target said it would provide disposable masks at entrances to customers who don’t have one.

Face coverings reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to the CDC. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” CDC director Robert Redfield said in a statement this week.