What’s next for mask mandates?
Mask compliance continues to frustrate retailers nearly one year into the pandemic and the vaccine rollout is creating more turbulence on selling floors.
An article in The Wall Street Journal this past weekend chronicled the latest phase of mask conflicts:
- Store managers and staff continue to face confrontations by individual customers and sometimes coordinated groups of anti-maskers. Incidents range from foul language to lawsuit threats and violence;
- As COVID-19 cases decline and vaccines roll out, governors in Iowa, Montana and North Dakota have dropped statewide mask mandates, raising tensions with some city leaders who are keeping their own restrictions in place to fight new strains of the coronavirus as well as with stores that are trying to maintain their mask policies;
- With vaccines out of reach to most of the public, health experts say working retail continues to carry a high risk of infection. As of Feb. 17, Colorado had active investigations into outbreaks tied to staff at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, King Soopers and other stores. Almost 180 workers at a Costco store near Yakima, WA were infected between the middle of December and early January;
- Pandemic-fatigued shoppers aren’t as vigilant about wearing masks or wearing them properly, and worn down store staff aren’t as committed to policing requirements.
Other states and cities are likewise moving to ease restrictions on dining and other activities. Yet on Sunday on CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it’s “possible” Americans will need to wear masks in 2022 even as “a significant degree of normality” may arrive by the end of this year.
Among recent retail incidents:
- On Feb. 18, UPS severed its relationship with a franchisor in Newport, VT because the location refused to comply with the company’s uniform policy on wearing masks;
- On Valentine’s Day, an anti-mask group stormed a Trader Joe’s in Santa Cruz, ignored calls to leave, and posted a video of the incident on YouTube;
- On Feb. 6 at Woodman’s Food Market in Kenosha, WI, a male shopper punched a security staff member who reminded him of the store’s mask requirement.
- Grocers Wrestle With Mask Mandates as Pandemic Wears On – The Wall Street Journal
- Covid-19 Face Mask Mandates End in Some States, Fueling Tensions – The Wall Street Journal
- UPS ends relationship with Vermont store that refused to comply with mask rules – Boston.com
- Man arrested for punching store security staff who reminded him to wear mask; city mask mandate in effect through March 31 – Kenosha News
- Santa Cruz community condemns maskless group who stormed Trader Joe’s – Santa Cruz Sentinel
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What new challenges does the rollout of vaccines and easing of restrictions around dining and other activities place on mask mandates at stores? How should stores address mask fatigue by shoppers as well as store staff?