Kroger is the latest major retailer to drop its hardline mask policy, allowing fully vaccinated individuals to forgo a face-covering beginning Thursday, May 20.
The company announced Wednesday it would follow the updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, dropping the mask requirement for fully vaccinated shoppers.
“Starting May 20, fully vaccinated customers and most fully vaccinated associates no longer need to wear a mask in our facilities, including stores, distribution centers, plants, and offices, unless otherwise required by state or local jurisdiction,” the company said in a statement.
“If there is a state or local mandate, we will adhere to that requirement and its timeline,” it continued, adding that non-vaccinated associates will still be required to mask up, as will pharmacy associates.
“We request that non-vaccinated customers continue to wear a mask. And we will continue to respect the choice of individuals who prefer to continue to wear a mask,” the company added:
During the pandemic, #Kroger's priority has been the safety of our associates & customers. We have followed the CDC & our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Watkins & listened to associates & customers to guide our policies. Read our latest #mask policy: https://t.co/dDI859o889 pic.twitter.com/jsKc6MEqef
— Kroger News (@KrogerNews) May 19, 2021
Kroger falls in line with a host of other major companies and retailers which have since dropped their hardline mask mandates. Most are continuing to request unvaccinated customers to wear masks, although it does not appear any are asking customers to present proof of vaccination before entering and shopping in the facilities.
Walmart, for example, dropped its mask policy last week.
“Beginning (May 14), vaccinated customers and members are welcome to shop without a mask, and we will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings in our stores and clubs. We will update the signage in our facilities to reflect this,” the company said in a statement.
Target and Home Depot followed suit this week. Both are continuing to request unvaccinated customers to wear a face covering.
“Given the CDC’s updated guidance last week, Target will no longer require fully vaccinated guests and team members to wear face coverings in our stores, except where it’s required by local ordinances,” Target said in a statement, adding it would continue to “strongly” recommend unvaccinated guests to cover their face.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Biden on the Chinese coronavirus, said this week he believes Americans are “misinterpreting” the latest CDC guidance, clarifying it is “not” equivalent to the removal of mask mandates.
“I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” Fauci said during an Axios virtual event.
“It’s not their fault,” he continued. “People either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it. They are feeling that we’re saying: ‘You don’t need the mask anymore.’ That’s not what the CDC said.”
“They said: If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe — that you will not get infected either outdoors or indoors,” Fauci continued. “It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director identified businesses being unable to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated customers as an “issue” and “problem.”