Walmart has joined the growing number of retailers to require that shoppers wear masks inside its stores.
The retail giant announced Wednesday that starting Monday, July 20, masks will be required at all of its Walmart and Sam's Club locations.
Near the entrance of every store, there will be specially trained "health ambassadors" in black polo shirts to remind people without a mask of the new requirement and help them find a solution. Walmart says it's still considering what those solutions will be, while Sam's Club stores members will be offered a mask if they don't have one or they can buy their own.
Walmart's mask requirement comes as more and more communities and retailers announce mask mandates, with Walmart noting about 65 percent of its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are in areas where there is some form of government mandate on face coverings.
"While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities," Walmart said.
The mask requirement will help bring consistency across its stores and clubs, and waiting until Monday to implement it will give the retailer time to inform customers and members of the changes, as well as post signage and train associates on the new protocols.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges people to wear masks to help limit the spread of COVID-19. CDC leaders published an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Tuesday, saying there's evidence that face coverings, even those made at home, prevent the spread of the virus, especially when used by everyone in a community.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
In Minnesota, cities including Duluth, Edina, Excelsior, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, St. Paul, Rochester and Winona have or will implement mask requirements for indoor public spaces, while other cities are considering them.
Minnesota has yet to require masks statewide, but Gov. Tim Walz says he's looking into it as pressure increases, including from the Minnesota Medical Association and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, for a statewide mandate (despite Republican lawmakers saying one isn't needed).
More than 20 states already have a mask mandate, NPR reported.