- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 15, 2021

Walmart and Costco are relaxing their face mask requirements following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing new coronavirus guidance this week.

Shoppers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear a face mask inside Walmart and Costco stores unless required by state or local policy, each retail giant announced separately Friday.

Walmart also said masks will become optional for fully vaccinated employees of its U.S. stores and warehouses effective Tuesday, May 18, except where still required under state or local ordinances.

Both retailers announced their new mask policies on the heels of the CDC issuing updated guidance a day earlier regarding the use of face coverings by Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Fourteen months since the coronavirus pandemic started, the CDC said Thursday that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can resume indoor activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.

Businesses may set their own mask policies, however, as can localities reluctant to walk back ordinances imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19, which most Americans are not fully vaccinated against.

SEE ALSO: Larry Hogan, Md. governor, lifts indoor mask mandate for vaccinated, unvaccinated people

Walmart executives wrote in a letter to associates that it “will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings” within the company’s more than 5,000 U.S. stores.

“We are also reviewing whether masks may still be required for certain job codes for health and sanitation purposes and will share additional guidance soon,” Walmart executives wrote in the letter. “Some associates may choose to continue to wear masks, and as part of our value of respect for the individual we should all support their right to do so.

Costco told its employees it will continue to require face coverings in the pharmacy, optical and hearing aid sections of its stores and recommends everyone wear one regardless of vaccination status

“We will not require proof of vaccination, but we ask for members’ responsible and respectful cooperation with this revised policy,” Costco executives wrote in a letter.

Other businesses to revise their coronavirus rules Friday includes grocery store chain Publix, which said it will not require fully vaccinated customers and staff to wear masks unless required locally.

Additionally, Walt Disney World announced face coverings would no longer be required in outdoor areas of its Florida resort effective Saturday.

SEE ALSO: Virginia lifts mask mandate to align with CDC guidance

More than one-third of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC, while recent polling showed a significant percentage of Americans are reluctant to join them.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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