NEW YORK — Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, and private employer, is changing its mask policy and will now force all employees, including those who have been vaccinated, to wear masks in regions where infection rates are high.
According to a letter sent to Walmart staff on Friday, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based firm is also advising consumers to wear masks in shops in areas with high infection rates and will be reinstalling posters at the doors. It will also reintroduce “health ambassadors,” who will be stationed at the gates and distribute masks.
In addition, the firm is tripling the incentive for employees working in stores, clubs, transportation, distribution facilities, and fulfillment centers to receive the vaccination for $150. Those who have already earned the $75 incentive will get an additional $75 in their August paycheck.
The announcements came three days after the CDC reversed course on certain masking recommendations, advising even vaccinated persons to wear masks inside in areas of the United States where the delta form of the coronavirus is fuelling illness outbreaks.
“We continue to be deeply concerned about the pandemic’s progress and the spread of variations, particularly the delta variant,” “In an email sent to workers, Walmart’s chief people officer, Donna Morris, wrote: “We know that vaccines are the key to bringing about change. We are pushing you to be vaccinated, and we want to see a large number of you do so.”
A Walmart spokesperson, Scott Pope, declined to comment on the vaccination rate among Walmart employees, but told The Associated Press that the store has had a “good reaction.” “Workers responded well to the first incentive, and the company expects a similar response from the current one.
Walmart Inc. recently announced that it is adopting a new method for verifying the vaccination status of U.S. employees. It promises to reveal those facts in the future.
Walmart’s policy adjustment reflects public concern over rising infection rates.
In May, just days after the CDC relaxed its mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated persons, Walmart and a slew of other retailers announced that immunized consumers would not be required to wear a mask in U.S. stores unless state or local legislation stated otherwise. Walmart also stated that vaccinated employees will be able to operate without wearing a mask.
Customers would not be asked about their immunization status, Walmart claimed at the time, but would be subject to an “honor system.” Walmart employees who didn’t wear masks had to fill out a daily questionnaire to ensure they were vaccinated, though the evidence was not required.