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Target Joins Publix, Walmart, Other Retailers In Easing Mask Requirements

 A sign outside a Winn-Dixie in Safety Harbor on May 16, 2021, says masks are no longer required for workers and customers who have been fully vaccinated.
Carl Lisciandrello/WUSF Public Media
A sign outside a Winn-Dixie in Safety Harbor on May 16, 2021, says masks are no longer required for workers and customers who have been fully vaccinated.

Publix, Target and Walmart are among several retailers that are no longer requiring those who have been fully vaccinated from coronavirus to wear masks in their stores.

Lakeland-based Publix cited guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday that says anyone who has received the coronavirus vaccine can safely resume normal activities, indoors or outdoors, without masks or social distancing.

On Friday, Publix issued a statement that said, "Publix will no longer require fully vaccinated associates or customers to wear face coverings, unless required by a state or local order or ordinance, beginning May 15.

"In accordance with CDC guidelines, individuals who are not fully vaccinated are required to use face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix store."

Target's updated mask policy started Monday, but the retailer strongly recommends unvaccinated customers and employees wear masks. Target said employees will not have to wear masks if they are fully vaccinated.

Walmart, the largest private employer in the U.S. with more than 5,000 stores nationwide, also requested that customers who have been fully vaccinated continue to wear a mask, according to a Walmart news release.

"Fully vaccinated" means it has been two weeks since a person received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson."

Walmart and its membership-only Sam's Club outlets also gave employees two new reasons to get their vaccine: masks will become optional for fully vaccinated staff members starting Tuesday and proof of vaccination will bring a $75 bonus. Unvaccinated associates will be required to continue wearing masks, some health and sanitation positions may have to do the same.

For employees, the only barrier between a continued pandemic procedure and a mask-free world is a daily health assessment, where associates are expected to respond truthfully about the vaccine.

"If you are not vaccinated, we expect you to answer 'no' and to continue to wear a face covering. Integrity is one of our core values, and we trust that associates will respect that principle when answering," the news release said.

If cities and states still require masks, Walmart and Sam's Club stores in those areas will comply.

Other retailers who are no longer requiring masks for vaccinated individuals include Southeastern Grocers — the parent company of Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Mas and Harveys Supermarket — along with Trader Joe's, Starbucks and Costco.

Information from NPR was used in this report.

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Carl Lisciandrello