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Walmart customers, employees who are vaccinated won’t need to wear masks in stores

Exterior view of a Walmart store on August 23, 2020 in North Bergen, New Jersey. Walmart saw its profits jump in latest quarter as e-commerce sales surged during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Walmart said on Friday that customers who are fully vaccinated for Covid-19 will not need to wear a mask in its stores, unless one is required by state or local laws.

In a memo sent to employees, the country’s largest retailer and grocery store said the change in its mask policy takes effect immediately at Walmart stores and its membership club, Sam’s Club. Starting Tuesday, it said employees who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask while working.

The memo was from John Furner, Walmart U.S. CEO; Kath McLay, Sam’s Club CEO; and Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s executive vice president of health and wellness.

Walmart’s leaders pointed to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued on Thursday, which said that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask or stay six feet apart from others in most cases, whether indoors or outdoors.

The company said it is offering a cash incentive and the freedom to work mask free as part of a push to get more of its workforce vaccinated.

“We’re encouraging all associates to get vaccinated and help end this pandemic,” they said in the memo. “Do it for your health, your family, your friends, your community and your country – let’s help reach our national vaccination goals by the Fourth of July.”

Walmart executives said in the memo that the company “will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings in our stores and clubs.” They said stores will have updated signs that reflect that new policy.

They did not say if, or how, Walmart will verify if customers are vaccinated or not.

For employees who want to work without wearing a mask at a store, distribution center or other facility, Walmart said it will verify their status by asking them if they have or have not gotten vaccinated. It will rely on the person’s yes or no answer.

“Integrity is one of our core values, and we trust that associates will respect that principle when answering,” they said in the memo.

However, to get a vaccine-related bonus, Walmart said the employee will have to show his or her original, completed vaccine card to a store leader or human resources manager. Starting next Tuesday, each person is eligible to receive $75 “as a thank you for getting vaccinated.”

Walmart’s policy change is a departure from other major retailers, including Target, Gap and Ulta Beauty, that said they will keep pandemic protocols. Trader Joe’s, though, said customers could shop without wearing a mask, if they are fully vaccinated.

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