Publix on Friday said that it will require all employees, regardless of coronavirus vaccination status, to wear masks at work, citing updated federal recommendations this week amid a surge in the highly transmissible delta variant.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance recommends that individuals in areas of substantial or high transmission risk wear face coverings over their noses and mouths when in public, indoor spaces," Maria Brous, the supermarket chain’s communications director, said in a statement shared with The Hill.
“Effective Aug. 2, Publix is requiring associates, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix location, and we encourage all to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Brous added.
She said that the company continues “to encourage, but not require, our associates to get vaccinated.”
Publix is just the latest business to update its masking policy following the CDC’s reversal on masking after announcing in May that fully vaccinated individuals did not have to wear masks in most settings.
CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs CDC panel authorizes COVID-19 vaccine boosters for high-risk people, those over 65 FDA authorizes Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot for older and high-risk Americans MORE said Tuesday that the updated recommendation was needed due to new research showing that vaccinated individuals can transmit the delta variant to others on “rare occasions."
The research, some of which was released Friday, reportedly says in part that the delta variant may cause worse illnesses than other versions of COVID-19, and that it could be more infectious than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox and just as contagious as chickenpox.
Based on COVID-19 transmission rates, the CDC said masks should be worn indoors by both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in nearly 70 percent of U.S. counties.
A spokesperson for Publix had said on Wednesday that the company would be reviewing the CDC guidance and would provide updates on its mask and safety guidance as necessary.
The company, based in Lakeland, Fla., has more than 1,200 locations across the southeast, which has experienced some of the highest surges in COVID-19 cases amid relatively low vaccination rates.
Every county in Florida is currently experiencing “high” or “substantial” coronavirus transmission rates as nearly 43 percent of its total population has not gotten a COVID-19 shot, according to CDC data.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs Biden administration begins reimbursing Fla. school officials penalized over mask mandates Michael Cohen: Trump bluffing about another White House bid MORE (R) has been particularly opposed to mask mandates, especially in schools, and on Friday said he would sign an executive order to "protect the rights of parents" and allow them to defy mask mandates imposed by local school districts in the state.