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Walmart Drops Mask Mandate Following New CDC Guidelines

A Walmart store in Derry, N.H., seen in November 2020. The company says fully vaccinated customers need not wear masks, and vaccinated workers won't need to wear them starting Tuesday. The company won't require proof of status.
A Walmart store in Derry, N.H., seen in November 2020. The company says fully vaccinated customers need not wear masks, and vaccinated workers won't need to wear them starting Tuesday. The company won't require proof of status.

Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S., announced Friday that customers are no longer required to wear masks in its more than 5,000 stores nationwide.

The retail super store changed the rules one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared it was safe for fully vaccinated adults to resume most activities, indoors or out, in groups or individually, mask free and without social distancing.

Walmart is requesting that customers who have yet to receive their vaccine continue to wear a mask, a Walmart news release said.

"According to the CDC, it is safe for fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor settings," a news release said. "Fully vaccinated" means it has been two weeks since a person received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson."

Walmart also gave employees two new reasons to get their vaccine: masks will become optional for fully vaccinated staff members starting Tuesday and proof of vaccination will bring a $75 bonus. Unvaccinated associates will be required to continue wearing masks, some health and sanitation positions may have to do the same.

For employees, the only barrier between a continued pandemic procedure and a mask-free world is a daily health assessment, where associates are expected to respond truthfully about the vaccine.

"If you are not vaccinated, we expect you to answer 'no' and to continue to wear a face covering. Integrity is one of our core values, and we trust that associates will respect that principle when answering," the news release said.

If cities and states still require masks, Walmart and Sam's Club stores in those areas will comply.

Other retail outlets are expected to have similar rules, saying they will abide by state and local regulations. Many of those authorities have declared the mask mandate over — some since the new guidelines were announced and others earlier.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.