Healthcare

Walmart ends mask requirement for vaccinated employees

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

Fully vaccinated Walmart employees will no longer be required to wear masks at work in any Walmart or Sam’s Club facilities, unless face coverings are mandated in their states or localities.

Walmart announced the new guidance in a memo to staff on Friday, according to a copy of the update provided to The Hill.

Employees who have not yet received the jab, however, will still be required to wear masks while in stores and offices. Additionally, associates who work in clinical care environments — such as health clinics and pharmacies — and come into direct contact with patients and customers will have to continue wearing a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.

The retail giant said it decided to nix the mask mandate for vaccinated employees as it continues to examine the state of the pandemic in the country.

The new guidance came the same week that a number of states announced plans to lift their indoor mask mandates, including New Jersey, California and Oregon.

However, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the agency is not ready to relax its recommendations on mask requirements because hospitalizations and death rates remain high.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has trended down in recent weeks after seeing a large surge last month. Last month’s spike in daily infections was driven largely by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Walmart was one of the first private employers to announce a mask mandate for workers at the onset of the pandemic, according to The New York Times. The retailer employs roughly 1.6 million people in the U.S.

The retailer employs roughly 1.6 million people in the U.S.

The company is also lifting a sick pay policy enacted during the pandemic that provided associates with extra paid time off. The memo to employees said it will end on March 31, except for in areas where such a policy is required by state or local mandates or ordinances.

Additionally, Walmart will phase out its daily health screenings for employees — except those who work in California, New York and Virginia, where they are mandated by the states, according to the memo.

Walmart had initially relaxed its mask requirements for employees in the spring, but decided to restore the guidance in July when infections began to increase, CNN noted. A mandate was then put in place in December.

Amazon last week also announced that fully vaccinated employees who work in warehouses would no longer have to wear masks, according to CNN. 

Updated 4:35 p.m.

Tags Rochelle Walensky

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