Walmart Reinstates Mask Mandate as COVID-19 Cases Rise

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, Walmart is bringing back mask mandates for workers to some of its stores.
Walmart shopper wearing mask

The retailer made the changes to require workers in high-risk counties to wear masks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to include fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings. Workers will be required to wear masks inside Walmart’s facilities, including stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. This includes Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as the whole state is currently included as a high-risk area.

Executive Summary

Walmart’s shift in policy reflects the ongoing uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart’s policies often act as a bellwether for the rest of the industry. 

While workers will be required to wear masks, Walmart won’t require mask-wearing for shoppers. Shoppers are strongly encouraged to wear masks, CNBC reported. Apple recently announced it will require shoppers to wear masks in roughly half its stores that are located in COVID-19 hotspots. The National Retail Federation encouraged retailers to review their policies and consider requiring masks again based on the CDC update. Mask sales immediately rose after the CDC made its new recommendations, The AP reported.

At the same time, Walmart doubled down on its vaccination efforts, urging its employees to get vaccinated. The retailer doubled the cash incentive amount it is offering associates for getting vaccinated, upping the amount from $75 to $150.

“As a country, vaccination options have been available for months, but, unfortunately, because so many people have chosen not to receive it, we’ve left ourselves more vulnerable to variants,”  Walmart stated in its update. “The Delta variant is a mutation of the original COVID-19 virus and is much more aggressive and transmissible. It is important that necessary steps are taken to keep ourselves and our communities safe."

Exec summary

Associates can get vaccinated while they’re working, with two hours off to get vaccinated at a Walmart location or elsewhere. In addition, associates can receive up to three days paid time off if they experience adverse reactions or side effects to the vaccine.

Walmart went a step further and required all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4.

Walmart said it would continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation on a weekly basis. The retailer will post signage at its stores and clubs to remind customers and members about the CDC’s revised guidance and strongly encourage them to wear masks.