Tia Lynn Ivey
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is not willing to issue a mandatory mask order, but dozens of Georgia businesses are putting a corporate foot down on the issue, declaring, “No mask, no service.”
This week, popular store chains, including Walmart, Ingles, and Lowe’s, Home Depot and Sam’s Club, have all announced customers must wear a face mask while shopping to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the highly contagious and potentially lethal coronavirus, as cases dramatically spike across Georgia and the rest of the country.
Other stores and restuarants in Morgan County and surrounding areas have also announced mandatory mask policies due to the coronavirus. Those stores and restaurants include: Aldi, Apple Stores, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Bestbuy, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, CVS Pharmacy, Harris Teeter, Kohl’s, Kroger, Marshalls, Panera Bread, Petsmart, Publix, Sams Club, Starbuck’s, Target, TJ Maxx, Trader Joe’s, Verizon, Walgreens, and Whole Foods.
Local managers and employees are hoping the public will abide by the new mandatory mask policy, but expect some backlash.
“There is probably going to be pushback,” said David Moore, a manager at Ingles in Madison. “But we are all in this together. We have to live here together. We have to work here together and we have to shop here together. We just want to do our part to keep the community safe.”
Walmart began requiring masks for shoppers on Monday, July 20. The superstore released a joint statement with Sam’s Club on the company’s decision to require masks.
“To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20. This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols,” wrote Dacona Smith, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S, and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer for Sam’s Club. “While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities. According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected, it’s critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance.”
Walmart stores created a new position to help customers adjust to the new mask-wearing policy.
“In addition to posting clear signage at the front of our stores, Walmart has created the role of Health Ambassador and will station them near the entrance to remind those without a mask of our new requirements,” explained Smith. “Our ambassadors will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers. 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.To help ensure consistency with this new process, all stores will have a single entrance.”
Walmart is asking customers to put aside political differences and opinions and comply to the new policy.
“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic. 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,” said Smith. “We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our customers and members in wearing face coverings to protect their safety and the safety of our associates.”
The City of Madison also released a statement in support of mask-wearing in public.
“The City of Madison encourages everyone to wear a mask while out shopping and exploring in our beautiful town,” said that statement. “Let’s all do our parts.”
Governor Kemp as come out against government-ordered mask mandates, even filing a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who ordered a citywide mask mandate for the public. The suit has garnered national media attention. However, he has asked all Georgians to voluntarily don masks while in public.
“All Georgia residents and visitors are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings as practicable while outside their home or place of residence, except when eating, drinking, or exercising outdoors,” said Kemp in a statement on the State of Georgia’s official website. “When you leave your home, wear cloth face coverings wherever and whenever practicable. Covering your nose and mouth greatly reduces your chances of spreading the virus and provides some protection for the wearer. Use face coverings if you’ll be indoors or around other people where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost. The recommended cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies used by healthcare workers and other medical first responders. When wearing a mask, try not to touch your face without first washing your hands.”