Walmart Gives Deadline for Staff to Have COVID-19 Vaccine

Walmart has given a deadline for its corporate staff and management-level employees to get a vaccination against COVID-19. The announcement came on the same day The Walt Disney Company announced it would also require salaried and non-union hourly employees in the U.S. to get the vaccine by a certain deadline. Walmart also doubled its bonus incentive to get vaccinated.

Walmart's home office associations, as well as market, regional and divisional employees will have to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 4, according to a memo obtained by CNBC Friday. The country's largest private employer will continue monitoring the situation before deciding if its plans need to change. At the moment, Walmart hopes to have staffing near pre-pandemic levels after Labor Day, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said.

"We want to get to a place where we can use our offices and be together safely," McMillion wrote in the memo. "It's important for our business, our culture, our speed, and our innovation." Walmart also doubled the incentive for staff in its stores to get the vaccine, from $75 to $150. Employees who were already vaccinated and received the $75 bonus will receive another $75 bonus on their Aug. 19 paycheck, Walmart said.

The company also announced it will require store employees in high-risk U.S. counties to wear facemasks immediately, even if the employee is vaccinated, CNBC reports. Shoppers will be strongly encouraged to wear masks in stores, but not required to, according to another company memo. The list of high-risk counties will follow the latest rankings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Customers are strongly encouraged to wear masks, but not required," Walmart said in a statement to USA Today. The masking requirement is "not applicable" to employees "in all stores. Managers will refer to the CDC site for updates relevant to their county each Monday." The requirements will also be in place for Sam's Club stores.

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Walmart began requiring all customers and employees to wear masks in July 2020, but the mandate was dropped in May when the CDC said fully-vaccinated people could go without masks in most cases. However, the CDC updated its mask guidelines earlier this week to help slow the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Fully-vaccinated people are advised to wear masks indoors when in counties with "substantial" and "high" transmission of COVID-19. Almost two-thirds of all counties fall under these classifications though.

Publix also announced all store employees, regardless of their vaccination status, will have to wear face coverings beginning on Aug. 2. Kroger is now encouraging all individuals to wear a mask in their stores. "In light of the Delta variant and updated CDC recommendations, we strongly encourage all individuals, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask when in our stores and facilities," Kroger said in a statement. "We will continue to abide by all state and local mandates and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated, including our associates."