In the spring of 2020, stores across the nation temporarily shut down and those that remained open underwent major changes to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. Masks were mandated in stores, stickers were placed on the floor to indicate six feet of distance between shoppers, plexiglass barriers were put up at cash registers, and companies removed any features they believed would promote virus spread. Fortunately, a year later, the COVID numbers in the U.S. have improved drastically, allowing companies to start rolling back some of the new rules and regulations they put forth when the virus was at its worst. And now, Costco has announced that it will be ending one COVID-related ban in June. Read on to find out how Costco is making its transition back to pre-pandemic policies next month.
Costco is ending its ban of free samples.
If you go to Costco next month, you'll notice the return of an old favorite: the free food samples that were a staple the wholesale chain pre-pandemic. Richard Galanti, Costco's chief financial officer, announced on a May 27 earnings call that around 170 U.S. Costco locations will bring back free food samples in the first week of June, per CNN. And by the end of June, most of the remaining locations (the company has 560 U.S. warehouses) will have reinstated free samples as well. According to CNN, free samples had been banned by the company for about 14 months during the pandemic.
There will still be some changes to Costco's free sample policy.
According to CNN, Costco is planning to implement some safety measures to its free samples since COVID is still lingering, especially in certain parts of the country. Galanti said that part of the "increased safety protocols" they're putting in place will include samples being prepared behind plexiglass, made in smaller batches, and distributed to customers only one at time.
There will be changes made to Costco food courts as well.
Along with its ban of free samples, Costco also shut down its food courts at the beginning of the pandemic. And while they reopened in May, the beloved Costco food courts have only been offering a limited menu with no seating. However, Galanti said that indoor seating will be back at most of Costco's U.S. locations next month, just with "more physical separation" than before the pandemic, CNN reports. This means that tables will seat four instead of six or eight and Costco will allow "half the seating capacity as we had before," Galanti said. Some stores will also have outdoor food court seating options.
Costco also lifted its mask mandate earlier this month.
Costco also updated its face mask policy on May 14, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said fully vaccinated individuals no longer needed to wear masks under most circumstances. In U.S. locations with no state or local mask requirements—which is the large majority of places—Costco started allowing members who are fully vaccinated to enter the store without a mask. They also do not require proof of vaccination. However, if your Costco is located somewhere that does have a state or local mask mandate, you must still wear a face covering at your local Costco, regardless of your vaccination status.