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Winn-Dixie grocery stores will not require customers to wear masks

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At a time when the nation’s largest retailers have implemented nationwide mask mandates at their stores in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, Winn-Dixie, a supermarket that operates hundreds of stores in the South, has said it will be going the other way.

In an email seen by The Washington Post this week, Joe Caldwell, the head of corporate communications for Southeastern Grocers, which owns Winn-Dixie, said the chain will not be mandating masks at its stores.

“Our associates have seen that mask mandates are a highly charged issue with our customers. We do not want to put our associates in a position to navigate interpersonal conflict or prohibit customers from shopping in our stores,” Caldwell said in the email, according to the Post.

The move by Winn-Dixie comes as major chains from Walmart to Best Buy and Kroger have announced they will require customers to wear masks at stores nationwide. 

Starbucks, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Apple, Qurate Retail Group and Costco are also among the growing list of major retailers to implement nationwide mask mandates amid the ongoing pandemic as the National Retail Federation (NRF) has called on retailers to enact similar policies. 

According to the Post, Winn-Dixie operates over 500 locations across states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Out of those four states, North Carolina is the only state that requires residents to wear masks in public.

Winn-Dixie’s resistance to joining other major retailers in mandating masks also arrives as face coverings have grown increasingly politicized amid the pandemic among state and local lawmakers in recent weeks, despite health experts urging the public to do so to mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak.

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