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Walmart announced on Wednesday that it would require all customers to wear face masks in its more than 5,000 stores and clubs.
The new requirement will be enforced by employees stationed at store entrances, Walmart said.
Walmart began requiring face masks for its employees in April. At the time, it said it would encourage shoppers to wear the coverings.
Walmart said on Wednesday that it would start requiring shoppers to wear face masks in all its stores starting next Monday, July 20.
The new requirement, which applies to more than 5,000 Walmart and Sam's Club stores, will be enforced by employees stationed at store entrances, Walmart said.
In a blog post explaining the new rule, Walmart's chief operating officer, Dacona Smith, described it as a "simple step to help keep you safe."
"We know some people have differing opinions on this topic," Smith wrote. "We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC."
With the new requirement, Walmart joins a growing list of retailers — including Starbucks, Costco, and Best Buy — that are creating and enforcing rules about wearing masks.
Employees stationed at store entrances will enforce the new mask requirement
Smith said the company created an employee role, called "health ambassador," to help enforce the face-mask requirement.
"Our ambassadors will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers," Smith wrote. "The ambassadors, identifiable by their black polo shirts, will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution. We are currently considering different solutions for customers when this requirement takes effect on July 20."
The company said it was also training employees to handle cases where shoppers may have medical reasons that prevent them from wearing a face mask.
"We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering," Smith wrote. "Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone."
Stores will shift to using a single entrance to ensure compliance with the new rule, Smith said.
Walmart began requiring its employees to wear face masks in April. At the time, the company said it would also encourage shoppers to wear the coverings.
Since then, several state and local governments have mandated wearing masks in public, affecting about 65% of Walmart's stores, Smith said.
Surveys indicate broad support for face-mask mandates
Surveys have found broad public support for face-mask requirements in stores. In a recent Harris Poll survey, 76% of respondents said businesses should create and enforce mask requirements.
But at stores and restaurants across the US, a disturbing trend has emerged as people who oppose mask-wearing mandates lash out at workers.
In recent weeks, widely shared videos have shown shoppers shouting at employees and destroying store displays in defiance of face-mask rules, as Business Insider's Kate Taylor reported.
In some cases, these displays of opposition have turned violent. A 19-year-old McDonald's employee told Business Insider that a customer assaulted her in June after she asked him to wear a mask.
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