Walmart returns to mandatory mask policy for associates, regardless of vaccine status

Updated CDC mask guidelines prompt policy change at Walmart

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2020 file photo, a woman, wearing a protective face mask due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, wheels a cart with her purchases out of a Walmart store, in Derry, N.H.  Walmart says it will close its U.S. stores on Thanksgiving for the second consecutive year. The nations largest retailer and biggest private employer said Friday, June 4, 2021, that it wants to give workers time off for all their hard work and dedication to the company.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2020 file photo, a woman, wearing a protective face mask due to the COVID-19 virus outbreak, wheels a cart with her purchases out of a Walmart store, in Derry, N.H. Walmart says it will close its U.S. stores on Thanksgiving for the second consecutive year. The nations largest retailer and biggest private employer said Friday, June 4, 2021, that it wants to give workers time off for all their hard work and dedication to the company. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Walmart is reversing course for employees and requiring that associates wear masks once again due to recent surges in COVID-19 cases.

The retailer made the announcement on its website Friday stating that all associates will be required to wear masks inside regardless of vaccine status.

Associates must wear masks in counties where there is substantial or high transmission and where there are state or local mask mandates.

Metro Health sent a text alert to Bexar County residents last week recommending that everyone wear masks indoors, including those who are fully vaccinated which is also in line with updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Walmart noted that the policy change is also due to the CDC mask-wearing guidance update.

“We continue to watch with deep concern the developments of the pandemic and the spread of variants, especially the Delta variant,” Walmart officials said in a news release.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last week that removes local governments’ abilities to enact policies like requiring people to wear masks, get vaccinated or set capacity limits.

Customers will not be required to wear masks at this time, but stores are expected to post signage to remind customers about the CDC’s revised guidance while strongly encouraging people to wear masks.

Walmart has also increased its employee incentive from $75 to $150 for all associates who get the COVID-19 vaccine. The incentive program will run until Oct. 4 and associates who already received the $75 incentive will receive an additional $75 more on their Aug. 19 paychecks, according to the news release.

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.