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Most grocery stores in Minnesota now require shoppers to wear face masks

As cities mandate masks and health officials recommend them, more retailers are starting to require them.

The list of grocery stores that do or will require that shoppers wear face coverings is growing as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Minnesota and the United States.

In the past few weeks, Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, Whole Foods, Coborn's, Cash Wise, Marketplace Foods, Aldi, Cub Foods, Trader Joe'sLunds & Byerlys and Kowalski's Markets have all said they'll require face masks. 

Cub was the latest to announce a face mask requirement, which will go into effect next Tuesday.

"Throughout the past several months, we’ve taken the necessary steps to provide essential food and grocery items, while enhancing our safety and sanitation protocols. Wearing face coverings while shopping at Cub stores is simply the right thing to do and helps us take care of each other by creating an additional layer of defense against the spread of COVID-19,” said Mike Stigers, Cub CEO.

The Minnesota Grocers Association back in late April began encouraging shoppers to wear masks but it hasn't publicly said if grocery stores should require that shoppers are masked. (BMTN has reached out for comment.)

But that hasn't stopped grocery stores from implementing mask mandates. Some have done so to keep it consistent across all their stores as some are located within cities that have mandated masks when inside public places or stores. 

Minnesota has yet to require masks statewide (Gov. Tim Walz says he's considering it amid pressure from various industry leaders), but cities have started issuing mask mandates. Duluth, Edina, Excelsior, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, St. Paul, Rochester and Winona are among the cities that have or will implement mask requirements for indoor public spaces and businesses. Other cities, including Bloomington, St. Cloud and Wayzata, are considering mask mandates.

Mask requirements went into effect at several grocery stores on Monday, July 20, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Kowalski's Markets, Sam's Club and Walmart. The St. Cloud Times reports face-covering requirements began at Coborn's, Cash Wise and Marketplace Foods on Monday as well. 

Meanwhile, the start date for other grocery stores' mask requirements are later:

  • Aldi will require masks starting July 27
  • Cub Foods will require masks starting July 28.
  • Lunds & Byerlys will require them starting July 31
  • Target will require masks as of Aug. 1

Hy-Vee is encouraging that shoppers wear masks, but it is not a requirement. When BMTN asked a Hy-Vee spokesperson if the grocery chain is considering a mask mandate, Christina Gayman said, "Nothing to share at this time."

Costco was among the first retailers to require shoppers to wear masks. The requirement began May 4, and in the weeks since many other retailers and big-box stores have made masks mandatory, including Menards (effective early May), Home Depot (effective July 15), Lowes (effective July 20) and Best Buy (effective July 15).

With many grocery stores and big-box retailers, the mask rule doesn't apply to children or people who are medically unable to wear a face covering. For those who don't want to mask up, retailers have said they can use curbside pick-up or delivery options instead. 

Some grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Kowalski's and Lunds & Byerlys, will provide masks or have them available to purchase if a shopper comes in without a mask.

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CDC encourages widespread mask use

At the start of the pandemic, state and federal health officials did not encourage people to wear homemade masks, but as scientists learned more about the novel coronavirus, their position on masks changed.

Now, the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommend people wear masks when they're out in public – especially inside where physical distancing can be difficult to maintain.

The CDC last week said there is now evidence that face coverings, even homemade ones, 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.”

The main protection people get from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings, the CDC says.

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