Walmart and Sam’s Club, two large nationwide retailers, will require all customers to wear face masks or facial coverings inside of their stores starting July 20.

The chief operating officers of the retailers issued a statement July 15 saying that about 65 percent of their more than 5,000 stores and clubs are currently located in areas where facial coverings or face masks are already mandated to wear in retail stores. This new mandate, the companies said, will bring “consistency across its stores and clubs” and “give time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols.”

Their decision to require masks in their stores was made after weeks of continuous spikes in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a mask is one of the primary ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in addition to proper social distancing (maintaining six feet of distance from others), frequent hand washing and other preventative actions.

“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,” the statement read.

Walmart said that it will have health ambassadors stationed near its entrances to remind those without a mask of the new requirements. The company said that those ambassadors will receive “special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers.”

“The ambassadors, identifiable by their black polo shirts, will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution,” Walmart’s statement read. “We are currently considering different solutions for customers when this requirement takes effect on July 20. To help ensure consistency with this new process, all stores will have a single entrance."

The stores acknowledged that some people may be unable to wear a facial covering due to a previous medical issue, and they said they will work with those customers.

“We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering,” the statement read. “Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone.”

In the same statement, Sam’s Club said that it will follow a similar procedure to Walmart, where associates at the entrance will politely remind customers of the requirement to wear a face covering when shopping in the store. Complimentary masks will be provided if the member doesn’t have one, and members can also purchase masks inside the Sam’s Club store.

“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,” the companies’ statement read. “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. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our customers and members in wearing face coverings to protect their safety and the safety of our associates.”

The CDC recommends that everyone 2 years old and older wear a cloth face mask that covers their nose and mouth when they are out in the community. Due to the danger of suffocation, people should not put cloth face coverings or masks on children who are younger than 2 years old.

Cloth face masks should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, can’t move or is otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance. According to the CDC, cloth face masks are not a substitute for social distancing (maintaining six feet of distance from others), frequent hand washing or other daily preventive actions.

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