Some of the biggest U.S. retailers have instituted mandatory mask policies over the past two weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19, including Walmart. The Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from some of America's biggest corporations, called for companies to require face mask mandates for customers of retail locations and restaurants. However, a week later, many companies are walking back their mask mandates following several highly publicized incidents centered around wearing face coverings.
Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Home Depot, Lowe's, and other nationwide retailers said they would serve customers even if they violate mask mandates, according to CNN. The change in policy is to prevent confrontations between customers and employees.
The companies want to avoid negative publicity and potential violence stemming from customers refusing to wear face masks in stores. This comes after multiple events where customers became irate, including one instance where a man brandished a gun at a Walmart employee because of the mask mandate.
A Florida man threatened to kill a fellow shopper at the Walmart in Royal Palm Beach on July 12. The man, Vincent Bruce Scavetta, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and improper exhibition of a firearm, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
Earlier this month, two women confronted a man in a store because he wasn't wearing a face mask. A woman trashed a Target store in Arizona because of the mask mandate. A Texas woman was angry that a 7-Eleven convenience store required face coverings, so she spit all over the counter.
An incident of a maskless Florida man clashing with a Walmart employee in Orlando went viral in June. In May, there was a tense encounter between a man who refused to wear a mask and a Costco worker. Two California men were caught on video attacking a Target security guard because he told them to wear a mask.
A Walmart training video recommends that its employees deal with anti-mask customers by letting "them continue to shop" and avoid any physical altercation.
"With every requirement there are exceptions that have been established to avoid escalating the situation and putting our associates in harm's way," a Walmart representative told CNN. "Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores."
"We will not ask our associates to put their safety at risk by confronting customers about wearing masks," a Lowe's spokesperson said.
Home Depot said its mask policy is like the company's shoplifting policy, and no employee should put themselves in danger. "It's too dangerous to forcibly or physically deny entry," a spokesperson for the home improvement company said.
"In the event of non-compliance [the store] will expedite their transaction and provide them with other options for their future needs," such as delivery and drive-thru, CVS said.
On Friday, McDonald's announced that starting on Aug. 1, everyone is required to wear a face mask when visiting any of its restaurants.
"[I]n order to protect the safety of our employees and customers, we will ask all customers to wear face coverings when entering our US restaurants effective August 1," McDonald's said in the press release. "While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it's important we protect the safety of all employees and customers."
McDonald's added that employees would receive "de-escalation training" to deal with customers who refuse to wear masks. The fast-food behemoth said it plans to "take care" of patrons who refuse to wear masks in a "friendly, expedited way."
You can see a list of stores that have mandatory mask policies here.