Walmart and Sam's Club announced Wednesday that they will start requiring all customers to wear face coverings when shopping at its stores as the coronavirus pandemic rages in the U.S.
"While we're certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities," Dacona Smith, Walmart's COO and Lance de la Rosa, Sam's Club's COO, said in a joint statement announcing the mandate. Sam's Club is a subsidiary of Walmart.
The retail giants said the mandate goes into effect on July 20, but added 65% of their stores are already located in areas with some form of government mandate on face coverings.
"According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don't have symptoms and don't know they are infected, it's critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance," the statement added.
Walmart said they created a new role of "Health Ambassador," who will be stationed near the entrance to remind customers without a mask of the new requirements, and the ambassadors will undergo special training to "help make the process as smooth as possible for customers."
The health ambassador will also "work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution," according to Smith.
Meanwhile, at Sam's Club, associates at the entrance will remind customers without face coverings of the mask mandate and complimentary masks will be provided if the member doesn't have one, the company said.
"We know some people have differing opinions on this topic," Smith and De la Rosa added. "We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC."
Medical authorities including the CDC and the World Health Organization have said that wearing face coverings play an important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in communities. In the U.S., however, the medical guidance has oddly become embroiled in a culture war amid the pandemic and masks have even become a flashpoint for confrontations and violence.