Retailers stuck in the middle of CDC’s new mask guidance

Welcome to “maskageddon.”

Retailers are discovering themselves caught in the middle of the CDC’s new guidance permitting vaccinated individuals to ditch their masks in public locations — each indoors and outdoor besides in sure circumstances similar to crowded indoor settings.

While some of their clients and even staff could also be rejoicing about the information, labor unions have made it clear that they aren’t glad about the growth. And some retailers are not sure about the best way to tackle the scenario on condition that many states haven’t but lifted their very own mask mandates.

“People who work in public facing jobs — such as in supermarkets and other retail establishments — will still need to be protected,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, stated in a press release. “They have no way of knowing whether customers who are not wearing masks have been vaccinated. These workers, many of whom are essential, may be exposed both to the virus and to unnecessary stress. We must encourage customers in high trafficked areas to continue wearing masks.” 

The sentiment was echoed by the United Food and Commercial Workers International union head, Marc Perrone, who stated Thursday, “Today’s CDC guidance is confusing and fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.” 

Grocery shopper wearing a mask
A lady carrying a mask retailers for groceries at a Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn.
Getty Images

Indeed, the CDC’s new pointers stand to create tensions in crowded areas and states like New York, the place Gov. Cuomo has not yet lifted the state’s mask mandate as he evaluations the new guidelines. The federal authorities’s guidance doesn’t supersede state and native legal guidelines.

Small and nationwide retailers alike are being swept into the debate with some seemingly unprepared for the sudden and dramatic shift in coverage. A hodgepodge of approaches are being rolled out, which solely stands so as to add to the bedlam.

Macy’s and the Gap say they’re reviewing the new guidance whereas Home Depot stated it had no plans to alter its guidelines requiring clients and employees to put on masks in its shops, in accordance with The New York Times.

Avi Kaner, proprietor of grocery store chain Morton Williams, agrees that retailers are being put in a troublesome spot.

“As soon as the governor lifts the mandate we will leave it up to the discretion or our employees and customers giving them the freedom to do what they want to do,” Kaner stated of his 15 Big Apple shops. “We are not a police force and can’t ask customers for proof of vaccinations.” 

Ditto for workers, he stated. In reality, Kaner stated he lately requested the union that represents his staff, Local 338, whether or not the firm may require its staff to be vaccinated in order to work in its shops. “The union said absolutely not.”

Grocery shoppers wearing masks
Masked customers at a BJ’s pushing carts on Long Island.
Newsday by way of Getty Images

Even throughout the top of the pandemic it was not possible for retailers to require clients to put on masks, ensuing in generally violent altercations between staff in opposition to clients.

The restaurant trade can be fighting how to answer the new federal pointers.

“Because restaurants welcome people who are both vaccinated and not fully vaccinated, operators will still need to work with their state and local regulators to ensure they are in line with all other mandates,” the National Restaurant Association’s senior vp, Larry Lynch stated in a press release. “For this reason, the association won’t be immediately updating its COVID-19 operating guidance.”

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