And they're asking their customers to do the same.
Kroger, Harris Teeter, Walmart, Sam's Club, Publix, Fresh Market, and Whole Foods now require employees to wear face masks.
On April 3, the CDC updated its guidelines to recommend that everyone—even healthy people—wear face masks. Three weeks later, grocery stores (one of the few essential businesses allowed open under stay-at-home guidelines) are updating their policies from recommendations to requirements.
Publix, Walmart, and Sam's Club announced that starting April 20, employees will be required to wear face masks at work.
Walmart, Sam's Club
Walmart says the face mask requirements extend to stores, distribution centers, clubs, and the company's corporate offices. If you're a shopper, they're asking you to wear one too to protect workers and other customers.
“We’ll also be encouraging customers and members to wear face coverings when they shop with us,” John Furner, the president and CEO of Walmart, and Kath McLay, the president and CEO of Sam’s Club, said in a joint statement.
Publix, the nation's fifth-largest grocery chain, says it will provide face masks to its employees until supplies run out.
“We are providing face coverings for all of our associates and plastic gloves for customer service and pharmacy associates until our supplies are depleted,” Publix said in a statement. “At that time, associates are required to provide their own face covering, and customer service and pharmacy associates may use their personal supply of gloves.”
Harris Teeter announced similar requirements beginning April 21.
"Effective, Tuesday, April 21, Harris Teeter’s valued associates will wear masks or other face coverings at work," the store said in a statement. "This includes stores, distribution centers and facilities.
This decision aligns with CDC guidelines, brings consistency across our stores and promotes the safety and well-being our valued associates and our shoppers. Harris Teeter will provide all associates with a face covering, or associates can provide their own.
Shoppers are encouraged to cover their faces, although it is only required for shoppers in areas with local mandates."
Last week, the store announced that five employees at two of its distribution centers had tested positive for COVID-19.
Kroger told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that the store will require employees to wear face masks in regions that are virus hotspots, and employees in other regions are "encouraged" to do the same.
"In our hot spot divisions we require our employees to wear face masks ... and gloves," Kroger CEO Robert McMullen said in an interview on Good Morning America. "Later this week we will move that to require all associates to wear face masks, as well."
Whole Foods, Fresh Market
Whole Foods, the health food grocery franchise owned by Jeff Bezos' Amazon, says stores now check each employee's temperature before they begin their shift. Employees at some stores say they are also being provided with a new face mask each day. One Whole Foods employee has died from the virus.
The Fresh Market says it began requiring employees to wear face masks starting April 14. Unlike Walmart's "encouragement," Fresh Market says shoppers are required to wear them as well. (Some reports say the store is not enforcing it.)
In late March/early April, scientists learned that many people infected with COVID-19 may not be experiencing symptoms. CDC director Robert Redfield said that nearly 25 percent of people with infections may be asymptomatic. In other words, you might be infected and not even get sick—and even if you feel healthy, you might still be able to infect others.
On March 31, the CDC director said in an interview:
"This virus does have the ability to transmit far easier than flu. It's probably now about three times as infectious as flu."
[Some experts suspect this rate may be even higher.]
"One of the [pieces of] information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic. That may be as many as 25%. That's important, because now you have individuals that may not have any symptoms that can contribute to transmission..."
Many states, including Maryland and New York require citizens to wear face masks any time they go in public.
Are you a grocery worker? Does your company require you to wear face masks? Reach out via our Facebook page and tell us what it's like in your workplace. You can view the CDC's recommendations regarding cloth facial coverings on its website, and you can check the latest updates from the CDC here.