Walmart Is Getting Rid of This Starting Tuesday
The biggest retail chain in the world is about to make this major change nationwide.
On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) abruptly changed its guidance on masks for the fully vaccinated population, suggesting that if you're two weeks out from your final shot, you no longer need to wear a face covering outside or inside, no matter how crowded the space is. The decision left every company across the country scrambling to figure out whether or not they would be putting the CDC's new mask recommendations into practice and, as the world's largest retailer, people were particularly curious about what Walmart would do at its stores.
The company ultimately adjusted to the new CDC mask guidance, telling customers on the evening of May 14 that, effective immediately, they no longer need masks to shop in their stores. But it won't be until next week that Walmart will make another major mask change. The company will stop requiring fully vaccinated employees to wear masks at work on Tuesday, May 18, too.
Walmart sent out a corporate memo, obtained by Best Life, to all U.S.-based staffers within 24 hours after the CDC's big announcement. In it, Walmart President and CEO John Furner, Sam's Club's President and CEO Kath McLay, and Walmart's Executive Vice President of Health & Wellness Cheryl Pegus, MD, said fully vaccinated employees don't need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, with some minor exceptions. "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," the memo explains.
In order for Walmart employees to work without a mask, the memo explains they need to fill out a daily health assessment, which will only be taken by staffers, and answer "yes" to the vaccination question. "If you are not vaccinated, we expect you to answer 'no' and to continue to wear a face covering," the notice states. "Integrity is one of our core values, and we trust that associates will respect that principle when answering."
The company explains that anyone who has waited the full two weeks after getting the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson jab, is considered "fully vaccinated."
"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," the memo states.
Meanwhile, anyone who is unvaccinated—store employees or customers—must continue to wear face masks, but Walmart will not be requiring proof of vaccination.
Although Walmart has chosen to lift the mask requirements for the vaccinated population, not all cities and states are implementing the recent CDC guidance. Some areas that still have mask mandates have not lifted them just yet. State officials in California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Virginia, for example, are taking the CDC's new guidelines into careful consideration before putting them into effect.
"There may also be local conditions, regulatory changes or laws that affect our guidance," Walmart stated in the memo. "We will be communicating with your local store, club or facility management team as regulations change so they can keep you informed."
Walmart will be updating signs across all stores that are making the mask change.
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The company is also encouraging its employees to get vaccinated and hopes to help the U.S. reach its Fourth of July vaccination goal, which President Joe Biden has set as getting at least one dose administered to 70 percent of U.S. adults. As of May 14, 59 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 18 have done so, according to the latest CDC data.
In order to inspire staffers to get vaccinated, both Walmart and Sam's Club have established a monetary incentive program. According to the memo, "all current U.S. field-based Walmart, Sam's Club and Supply Chain associates (hourly and salaried) below the level of store manager" will receive $75 as a thank you for getting vaccinated. The money, which will be included in an upcoming paycheck, will also be gifted to associates who received the vaccine prior to the incentive announcement.
More than 5,100 Walmart and Sam's Club stores offer the COVID vaccine, so staffers can get vaccinated at their workplace if they so choose.
"We can do this. We've been through a lot this year, and now we need to do our part to finish this," the Walmart executives said in their memo. "We encourage you to get vaccinated and to tell your friends and fellow associates. Thank you to all of you who have already chosen to make a difference and thank you to all of you who will choose to do so now."