Exterior view of a Walmart store on August 23, 2020 in North Bergen, New Jersey. Walmart saw profits jump in the most recent quarter as e-commerce sales soared during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Walmart said Friday that customers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are not required to wear a mask in their stores unless required by state or local law.
In a memo sent to employees, the country’s largest retailer and employer announced that the change to its mask policy will take effect immediately in Walmart stores and Sam’s Club members’ warehouse. As of Tuesday, employees who are fully vaccinated will not be required to wear a mask when working in their shops, offices or other facilities.
The memo was from John Furner, CEO of Walmart US; Kath McLay, CEO of Sam’s Club; and Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president of health and wellness.
Company executives pointed to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Thursday, requiring fully vaccinated people to wear a mask or be 6 feet away from anyone in most cases, indoors or outdoors. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or the single dose from Johnson & Johnson.
Walmart said it offers a monetary incentive and the freedom to work mask-free to vaccinate more employees.
“We encourage all employees to get vaccinated and end this pandemic,” they said in the memo. “Do it for your health, your family, your friends, your community, and your country – let’s help meet our national vaccination goals by July 4th.”
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden set a goal of getting 70% of adults in the United States to get at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the national holiday. As of Thursday, around 47% of the US population – more than 154 million Americans – had received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the CDC. According to the agency, around 118 million Americans are fully vaccinated.
Walmart executives said in the memo that the retailer “will continue to require unvaccinated customers and members to wear face covers in our stores and clubs.” They said the stores will have updated signs to reflect this new policy. They didn’t say whether or how Walmart will check whether customers are vaccinated or not.
For employees who want to work in a store, distribution center, or other facility without a mask, Walmart will check their status by asking if they have been vaccinated or not. It will be based on the person’s answer of “yes” or “no” in a daily health assessment.
“Integrity is one of our core values, and we trust that employees respect this principle when responding,” the memo reads.
However, in order to receive a vaccine-related bonus, employees must present their original, completed vaccine cards to a store manager or HR manager, according to Walmart. Starting next Tuesday, each person will be entitled to $ 75 “as a thank you for the vaccination.” All U.S. employees below the branch manager level are eligible.
The company is currently evaluating whether certain health and hygienic job codes may still require masks and will be releasing additional guidance shortly. Employees can continue to wear masks as they wish.
Walmart’s policy change is a departure from other major retailers, including Target, Gap, and Ulta Beauty, who have announced plans to maintain pandemic logs. However, Trader Joe’s said customers could shop without a mask if they were fully vaccinated.