Menards is the latest store to require shoppers to wear face masks

Other stores requiring masks as effectiveness is questioned.

Menards stores across the Midwest are requiring people to wear masks while shopping in the store, and if they don’t have one, they’re selling them for $1.

This requirement is among the changes Menards has made to its policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The home improvement chain has also banned children under age 16 and pets (except service dogs) in stores, but says families with children can use the buy online, pick-up at the store option.

Menards has also updated its store hours (6 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday) and has reserved the first hour in the morning for elderly and vulnerable shoppers, increased cleaning procedures, and placed reminders and floor markers for people to encourage them to stay six feet away from each other while shopping.

It is encouraging shoppers and team members to continue to follow the World Health Organization’s steps to combat the spread of the virus, which include frequently washing your hands, staying six feet away from others, avoiding touching your face, making sure to cover your coughs and sneezes and staying home if you’re sick.

Menards is not the first store to require shoppers to cover their faces while in the store. The Minnesota Grocers Association in an April 29 update requests that shoppers wear face coverings while grocery shopping. 

And Costco, starting Monday, May 4, is requiring all employees and shoppers to wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times while in the store, except for children under the age of 2 or people who are unable to wear one due to a medical condition.

Craig Jelinek, the president and CEO of Costco, wrote in an update on the company’s website that they know some people may find this “inconvenient or objectionable,” but they believe the added safety is worth it.

“Although some may disagree with this policy or question its effectiveness, we’re choosing to err on the side of safety in our shopping environments,” Jelinek wrote.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending people wear cloth face coverings in public, especially in places where it’s hard to maintain six feet of space between you and others, such as grocery stores. The CDC says cloth face coverings, which cover the wearer's mouth and nose, can help protect others when someone who has the virus but has no symptoms wears a mask in public.

There are questions on the effectiveness of homemade cloth face masks, with some disease experts citing the lack of studies on the topic. A paper published by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on April 8 found homemade masks may capture large respiratory droplets, but there’s no evidence (because it hasn’t really been studied yet) that the masks stop the transmission of invisible droplets that are also believed to spread the virus, especially from people who have no symptoms and are still going out in public.

An opinion piece by Dr. Lisa Brosseau and Dr. Margaret Sietsema published on the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) website says wearing a mask may result in the wearer relaxing other social distancing efforts because they have a sense of protection. The piece also says data is lacking to recommend the general public wear face masks due to lack of evidence supporting their effectiveness.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of CIDRAP, worries that encouraging people to wear face masks will have people trying to get surgical masks or N-95 masks for better protection, creating an even larger shortage of the masks healthcare workers need to stay safe, the CIDRAP website says

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