Walgreens, Target, Publix join list of stores mandating masks

(Gray News) - More major retailers on Thursday joined the growing list of national chains that will require customers to wear face masks regardless of where cities or states stand on the issue.

Pharmacy chain Walgreens said in a statement that it would begin Monday asking all customers to wear a face mask inside its stores. There will be new signage on exterior doors with that information, and stores will also increase their reminders to customers via the intercom system, the company said.

“We know that face covers can play a vital role in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Kevin Ban, Walgreens chief medical officer. “As cases continue to rise in many parts of the country, it’s critical we, as businesses and members of the community, do everything we can to support recommendations of health officials, both locally and nationally.”

Publix said its face mask requirement at all stores would begin Tuesday. It stated it will have signs notifying customers of the requirement at store entrances, as well as in-store announcements.

It will not apply to young children and those with medical conditions who are not able to wear face coverings. Publix encouraged people not able to wear face coverings to consider using its delivery or curbside pickup services.

“With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to grow and current CDC guidance indicating face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19, we believe requiring face coverings in our stores is another way we can do our part to help protect our communities,” said Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous.

Target's mandatory face mask policy will go into effect Aug. 1, and all CVS stores will begin requiring them on Monday.

More than 80% of Target's 1,800 stores already require customers to wear masks due to local and state regulations. Target will hand out masks at entrances to those who need them.

The announcements come one day after the nation's largest retailer, Walmart, said that it would mandate face shields for all customers starting Monday.

Starbucks, Best Buy, Kohl's and Kroger Co. have also announced mandatory masks nationwide.

Retailers have hesitated to make masks mandatory nationwide out of fear of angering some customers over what, even in a pandemic, has become a political issue.

They have been reluctant to put employees in the position of becoming enforcers. Confrontations with customers and store employees have played out in multiple incidents caught on video.

It was difficult to enforce such rules even in states that mandate face masks. However, the recent surge of new virus cases — particularly in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona — has left them with no choice, retail experts say.

“To be clear, we’re not asking our store employees to play the role of enforcer, " said Jon Roberts, the chief operating officer at CVS. “What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering.”

Copyright 2020 Gray Media Group, Inc. Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.