Joel Porro and Lizz Hernandez wear gloves and protective masks as they put bags in the trunk of their car after shopping at Walmart Supercenter as the coronavirus pandemic continues on Sunday, March 5, 2020 in Miami.
David Santiago | Miami Herald | Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Walmart and Sam’s Club customers will soon be required to put on a mask or face covering before shopping in stores.
The big-box retailer announced the new policy Wednesday and said it will take effect July 20. It said the majority of its approximately 5,000 stores and clubs — about 65% — are in areas where there’s already some kind of government requirement for face coverings.
With the new policy, Walmart joins a growing list of retailers that require masks inside of stores. Best Buy started requiring face coverings in its stores Wednesday. Costco and Apple already had the requirement.
Many retailers, including Walmart, have dealt with a patchwork approach of state and local rules about face coverings. Without a national mandate, their employees have often had to police mask wearing policies — whether their own policy or a local government mandate.
In some cases, enforcing the requirements has led to confrontations between employees and customers and viral social media videos.
Best Buy originally encouraged, but did not require face coverings. The company’s CEO Corie Barry said in May that the company has provided training on how to de-escalate situations, as employees have served customers who are “scared, frustrated and occasionally hostile.”
“It can range from customers being frustrated that they can’t just walk into a store and get what they need to customers potentially not wanting to wear masks,” she said on a phone call with reporters.
Walmart said in a news release that it’s created a new employee role to enforce the requirement. Each store will have a health ambassador who will get special training and will be stationed near the door. That person will remind customers about the mask requirement when they walk inside.
The company said health ambassadors will be identified with a black polo shirt. He or she “will work with those who show up at a store without a face covering to find a solution that works for everyone,” the news release said.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.