Walmart Is Getting Rid of This, Effective Immediately
The world's largest retailer is dropping one thing from its stores.
Even as the world's largest retailer, COVID-19 has posed some serious challenges for Walmart and how they serve their customers. The earlier days of the pandemic saw limited opening hours and new safety precautions, while the most recent Omicron surge brought about a wave of temporary closings due to staffing shortages and cleaning schedules. Now, Walmart has announced it's making yet another significant change to its stores by getting rid of a few of its pandemic-related changes. Read on to see what the megaretailer is dropping, effective immediately.
Walmart is getting rid of its mask mandate for vaccinated employees where allowed.
According to a memo sent to staff on Feb. 11, Walmart has said it would be dropping its mask mandate for employees. "Effective immediately, fully vaccinated associates will not be required to wear masks while working in any Walmart or Sam's Club facility, unless required by a state or local mandate or ordinance," the company wrote, according to Axios.
The company says it defines "fully vaccinated" as having received the two initial doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single required dose of Johnson & Johnson. However, the policy change stipulated that unvaccinated employees will still be required to wear masks until further notice, as well as employees who work in "clinical care settings" such as pharmacies. The company also added that "we support and respect an individual's choice to continue wearing one," The Washington Post reports.
The company also announced it was getting rid of its COVID-19 sick pay policy.
But the ending mask mandate isn't the only policy change that will affect the company's 1.6 million employees across the U.S. In the same memo, Walmart also announced that it would no longer offer COVID-related paid sick leave for workers beginning next month, except for where local laws required it, The Wall Street Journal reported. The policy previously allowed for extra paid time off for employees who became infected by or exposed to COVID-19 on top of their existing paid sick days.
In addition, the company also announced that it would begin phasing out its daily health screenings for employees in most areas, except California, New York, and Virginia, where such tests are still required by local law.
Parts of the U.S. are seeing COVID cases drop, while others are still struggling.
The change to the company's policy comes as states such as New York, Connecticut, and California announced plans to remove indoor mask mandates put back in place in response to the recent Omicron surge. During an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation on Feb. 13, Scott Gottlieb, MD, former commissioner of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), discussed why the recent changes were so controversial or difficult to make.
"There's still parts of the country that have a lot of omicron infection—not every part of the country is through this wave of the epidemic," he said. "Clearly, the Northeast is [and] the mid-Atlantic, where cases are 20 cases per hundred thousand people per day. But when you look at states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, they're at about 100 cases, or Mississippi, there are about 100 cases per hundred thousand people per day. That's a pretty dense epidemic."
Gottlieb explained how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had been having difficulty setting a national policy given how localized outbreaks could be, but that things could soon change. "I think what you're going to see the CDC do, though, is come out with guidance that's more specific to communities. That's based on what the local prevalence is, and that's probably where they should have been all along. I think they're going to make that adaptation because there clearly are parts of the country where prevalence is low enough now and heading in a positive direction if they can start lifting this mitigation."
Other companies have also recently dropped their mask requirements for vaccinated employees.
Walmart isn't the only major retailer to announce a change to its COVID-19 policy for workers. In a memo on Feb. 10, Amazon also announced that it would be dropping its mask mandate for vaccinated employees, CNN reported. And as of March 18, only fully vaccinated employees in the U.S. will still be eligible for paid sick leave related to COVID-19.
"There has been a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases across the country over the past weeks," the company wrote in the internal communication. "Along with increasing vaccination rates across the country, this is a positive sign we can return to the path to normal operations."