Winn-Dixie, a supermarket that operates hundreds of locations in the South, has reversed its policy and said it will now mandate that customers wear face masks inside stores as coronavirus cases spike across the U.S.
Parent company Southeastern Grocers Inc. announced on Monday that customers will be required to wear masks to reduce the spread of coronavirus beginning on July 27.
“Our communities count on us, and we are counting on our customers to show kindness as we go through these challenging times together,” said Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications and government affairs.
Caldwell added that the company, which is headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., believes that enforcement should be placed on state and federally elected officials.
“We will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates,” he concluded.
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.
The reversal came shortly after Caldwell told employees that the chain would not be mandating masks at its stores to avoid potential conflict.
“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 obtained by The Washington Post.
The about-face came roughly an hour after President TrumpDonald TrumpYoungkin ad features mother who pushed to have 'Beloved' banned from son's curriculum White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled MORE tweeted a picture of himself in a black mask, calling it a show of patriotism.
We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President! pic.twitter.com/iQOd1whktN— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 20, 2020
However, Caldwell told the outlet that the company’s reversal had “absolutely nothing to do” with Trump’s tweet.
Major chains from Walmart to Best Buy to 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.