Walmart will require customers at all of its US stores to wear masks beginning next week, becoming the largest retailer to mandate facial coverings as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
Other national chains made similar moves on Wednesday. Kroger and Kohl's announced they would start requiring all customers to wear masks, signaling that more retailers are lining up behind mask-wearing mandates. The National Retail Federation, the main lobbying group for the industry, also called on retailers to require masks for customers.
Most major retailers and grocers initially hesitated to enact their own mask mandates for customers during the pandemic, partly over fears of antagonizing shoppers who refuse to wear them. Retailers have said they are reluctant to put their employees in the position of enforcing mask requirements.
But the ground in the retail has shifted in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic worsens. More than 3.3 million people have now tested positive for the coronavirus nationwide and more than 130,000 have died. Cases are climbing in much of the country and many cities and states are reimposing restrictions to contain new outbreaks, including mask requirements in public settings.