The One Major Grocery Store You Can Now Go to Without a Mask
Other stores say they will continue to require masks for all customers.
Over the last year, stores across the country issued new requirements stating that customers had to wear masks in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC announced on May 13 that they were updating their own mask guidelines, now saying that fully vaccinated individuals don't need to wear masks in most circumstances, both indoors and outdoors. While people still have to follow the rules and requirements for businesses that do have mask mandates in place, one major grocery store has already announced that they are following the CDC's new guidance. On May 14, Trader Joe's said that fully vaccinated people can now go into their stores without a mask.
Trader Joe's uploaded a statement to the COVID-19 page on their website on May 14 saying that fully vaccinated customers are not required to wear masks while shopping in their stores anymore, CNN reported. And while the company's COVID-19 page has since disappeared and been replaced with an error message, Trader Joe's confirmed the company's new mask policy.
"In accordance with CDC guidelines, customers who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear masks while shopping in our stores," Kenya Friend-Daniel, a spokesperson for Trader Joe's, wrote in an email to Best Life. "We do not require proof of vaccination, as we trust our customers to follow CDC guidelines."
Trader Joe's will keep some of its other pandemic policies in place, however. According to CNN, the grocer will continue to perform wellness checks for employees and space out people within its stores. Employees will also still be required to wear masks for the time being.
But the company also recently dropped the senior hours at hundreds of its locations, USA Today reported on May 7. Like other grocery stores, Trader Joe's had been limiting the first hour of each retail day to customers 60 years and older and customers with disabilities as special shopping hours designed to help those more at risk for COVID shop without full crowds.
"We continue to offer senior hours in areas where it's mandated," Friend-Daniel told USA Today. "Anyone in need of special accommodations can always speak to their store for assistance."
Trader Joe's is believed to be the first major grocery store to announce this change following the CDC's new guidance, although the retailer for Walmart and Sam's Club also announced it was lifting mask mandates for fully vaccinated customers. "Beginning today, vaccinated customers and members are welcome to shop without a mask, and we will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings in our stores and clubs," the retailer said in a letter to employees.
However, these three stores may remain an anomaly over the next few weeks and months. Many other grocery stores and retailers have explicitly said they are going to continue to require that all customers wear masks for now. According to USA Today, Target, CVS, and Kroger all announced they would continue to require masks in their stores as they review the CDC's updated guidelines and re-evaluate their safety measures.
"It's unlikely that you're going to see a rapid unwinding of the COVID protocols—the [social distancing] stickers, the plexiglass and so forth—regardless of what the CDC came out and said today because most retailers will take the 'better safe than sorry' approach to dealing with this," Joel Bines, global co-leader of the retail practice at consulting firm AlixPartners, told CNBC.