Walmart responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by mandating all associates must wear a face mask. The company started distributing face masks to employees for free. Walmart’s masks were cloth masks and not respirator masks. While associates were allowed to bring their own home-made masks to the job, they had to abide by certain guidelines. Walmart is also making efforts to make customers wear face masks while shopping at their stores in order to minimize exposure for their employees.
Walmart initiated its Covid-19 response plan early on, and started making major changes to its stores early in March 2020 when the pandemic took hold in the US. The first measure implemented by the company was to close down all their stores overnight for emergency cleaning. Walmart proceeded to install sneeze guards/Plexiglas at all checkouts including their pharmacies.
Each store implemented social distancing stickers and regulations to separate customers – including an emergency leave policy. Walmart prioritized areas with elevated cases, such as New Orleans and New York, for emergency Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and sent a higher amount of protection to those areas. All associates had to have their temperature taken before they were allowed to go to work. Those were the early measurements the company took until the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) provided additional guidelines.
- Walmart encouraged all customers to wear face masks while they’re shopping at their stores.
Recently, most Walmart stores updated their policy on face masks, from voluntary to obligatory, as a result of CDC guidelines. The chief spokesman for CDC recommended wearing face masks in a public setting, which wasn’t their previous official stance. Even though state and municipal governments throughout the United States didn’t require face masks in a public setting, the CDC recommended masks due to the fact that individuals without any symptoms could still transmit the virus. The CDC determined that it’s in everyone’s best interest to wear face masks in order to stop the spread of the disease, and Walmart revised their guidelines accordingly.
Walmart implemented new social distancing regulations afterward. Walmart stores not only recommended face masks, but they started limiting the number of people allowed in the stores. Walmart stores operated at 20% capacity on average, and didn’t allow more than 5 customers per 1000 square feet at any given time. Walmart also initiated special shopping times for high-risk people, such as seniors, healthcare workers, first responders, and customers with medical conditions/disabilities.
Walmart’s spokesman stated: “We hope the new measures are going to continue to enhance customer safety across our facilities while retaining a degree of comfort. However, we should not forget that face masks are merely a health precaution and not a guarantee against the spread of the virus. Face masks do not replace other important steps we must take such as to keep a distance from others and, regularly wash our hands for more than 20 seconds and stay home if we have a temperature of over 100”. Walmart will continue mandating all associates wear face masks and gloves and measure their temperature to reduce the safety risk on other associates and customers.