Walmart and Sam's Club employees will be required to wear face masks or covering while working, the companies announced on Friday. In a memo addressed to U.S. associates and posted online, Walmart's president and CEO John Furner and Sam's Club's president and CEO Kath McLay issued a joint statement saying this policy will be in place starting at the beginning of the week. All departments of the companies, from distribution to corporate offices, will be required to follow this protocol. The listed the CDC's recently updated face mask and covering guidelines as their reason for the policy update.
"Throughout this pandemic, your health and well-being has been our top priority. It was just over a month ago that we announced our COVID-19 emergency leave policy, and since then, we have taken more steps to protect you, our customers and our members with the guidance of our state and local public health officials, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as our company's own Chief Medical Officer," the statement read. "Today, we are sharing another step: We will begin requiring that associates wear masks or other face coverings at work. This includes our stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, as well as in our corporate offices. We'll also be encouraging customers and members to wear face coverings when they shop with us.
"We have evolved our policy on face coverings from optional to mandatory as public health guidance has shifted. The CDC now recommends wearing face coverings in public settings, including grocery stores, to help curb the spread of the virus. Although most state and local governments do not mandate the use of face coverings in public settings, the CDC has reported that recent studies show a significant portion of individuals with the virus lack symptoms and can transmit the virus. With this knowledge, we believe it is simply in everyone's best interest to use masks or face coverings to curb the spread of this disease."
Employees can provide their own covering, as long as it meets "certain guidelines." If associates do not bring their own or bring an improper covering, they will be provided with one. The companies' recently implemented health and temperature screenings will continue, and they are open to altering the face mask policy if local laws or personal health ailments prevent the rule from being followed. Both execs also stressed that employees should maintain good hygiene, follow social distancing guidelines and not come into work with a fever. The companies are also extending their recently expanded "emergency leave policy" through May as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
"We hope this step will promote safety and consistency across all of our facilities and be of comfort to our customers and members," the statement read. "However, it's important to remember that face coverings are simply an additional health precaution. They do not guarantee against the spread of this virus, and they do not replace the most important steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe: 6-20-100. Whether at work or elsewhere, practice six feet of social distancing whenever possible. Regularly wash your hands with soap for 20 seconds. And if you have a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, stay home.
"We're also announcing today that we are extending our emergency leave policy through the end of May to ensure you have the support you need when you have to miss work. Thank you for your commitment to helping ensure Walmart and Sam's Club are safe places to work and shop. Together, we are providing a critical service for communities across the country. During this extraordinary time, our customers and members need us more than ever. Thank you for being there for them and each other."