Kroger Co. has become the latest retailer to decide to require all of its customers to wear a face-covering in its stores. The new policy will go into effect on July 22 after the Cincinnati-based company released the news last week.
The head of corporate communications, Kristal Howard, shared with Supermarket News that the decision comes as a result of the spikes in COVID-19 cases being seen across the country, especially in the south and west. She noted that the company is "committed to doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus." Howard said it's the company's responsibility to ensure safety among its workers and customers. Kroger's employees had been the only people in the store who were required to wear face masks; a rule put into place on April 26. The move comes at a time when other major retailers, like Target, Walmart and Kohl's, have all made the same announcement in enacting a policy for its customers to cover their faces.
Kroger had previously had one employee who worked at a distribution center test positive for the coronavirus back in April. The company also made news early in the pandemic after instilling a "Hero Pay" system for employees who had been working at the height of the outbreak. That system, though, was cut back in the second week of May.
In her message on the new policy, Howard shared that the extra step is being taken do to the understanding by everyone in the company that "additional precautions are needed to protect our country." While some of the states that were hit the hardest in March and April have begun to progress through their phased reopenings, the virus has shifted downward and outwards to areas like Florida and California. The Sunshine State recently reported a record number of positive daily cases, tallying more than 15,000 in a single day, while having just posted its fifth straight day on Monday with over 10,000 positive tests in 24 hours. Meanwhile, California has seen its numbers increase likewise, including in hospitalizations.
CVS also was among the major businesses to recently enforce face coverings in all of its stores. Larry Merlo, the CVS chief executive, spoke about the importance of face masks in an interview in the New York Times, "As individuals, we have that responsibility. My mask protects you, and your mask protects me."