Walmart's loosened mask policy is dividing employees, with some saying they're excited to see their coworkers' faces, while others worry about unvaccinated shoppers breaking the rules
- 7 Walmart
workersshared their reactions to the retailer's new maskpolicy for vaccinated people.
Walmartworkers interviewed said they worry unvaccinated shoppers will stop wearing masks.
- A Walmart spokesperson said the retailer would update signage in stores to reflect the policy.
A Walmart cashier of 10 years says the company's recent decision to drop mask mandates for vaccinated people came far too soon, and that she plans to continue wearing her mask at work.
"I think I've already been exposed so I don't know if I'll ever get the virus, but I do think [Walmart] should have waited six more months before they dropped the mask mandate" for vaccinated workers and employees, she told Insider in an interview. She said she doesn't plan to get vaccinated - even though Walmart offered her $75 to get the shots - because she doesn't trust the vaccine.
Other Walmart workers said they are excited to finally take off their masks at work, with one employee saying it could boost morale.
Insider spoke to seven Walmart employees in seven states on the company's decision to lift mask mandates for vaccinated employees and shoppers following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Workers were split on the decision, with some looking forward to dropping their masks at work, while others said they were worried that it could increase their chances of exposure to the virus. Employees in Texas and Georgia said many customers at their stores did not wear masks anyway, so the rule would not make much of a difference.
Insider verified the employment of the workers, all of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
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Some workers question Walmart's timing in loosening mask rules
One Walmart employee in the grocery department of a Georgia store said she planned to continue to wear her mask at work despite the new policy. She said the policy change made her question whether Walmart was taking public health seriously.
"To know that a majority of people can't afford health care and that COVID is a real virus and to act recklessly is insane to me," the Georgia worker told Insider.
Walmart's decision closely followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement on May 13 that said vaccinated Americans could stop wearing masks in most places, which some experts said could spur vaccinations.
The CDC left it up to private companies to enforce mask rules among employees and customers. Costco, Target, Kroger and Home Depot joined Walmart in dropping mandates to wear masks inside stores, but some stores - like Macy's and Walgreens - have not.
One grocery worker in Indiana said Walmart offered her a $50 bonus for getting the vaccine. But she said she's not planning to get the vaccine any time soon because she's unfamiliar with its ingredients and "it's barely been out in the world." She will continue to wear her mask in stores despite the policy, she said.
Walmart told Insider it has offered a $75 bonus to vaccinated hourly workers and up to three days paid leave in case they have side effects.
Half of American adults have now been vaccinated against COVID-19. But some Americans remain skeptical of getting the shot. About a quarter of people surveyed by CNN said they would not get a vaccine jab.
A Walmart spokesperson said the retailer is not requiring employees get vaccinated. "We are encouraging associates to get the vaccine and educating about it, so they can make an informed decision," the spokesperson said.
The Indiana worker said Walmart should continue to uphold a mask mandate for everyone regardless of vaccine status because employees can't ask shoppers if they've gotten shots. A Walmart spokesperson said the retailer would "request" non-vaccinated shoppers and workers wear masks, and "update the signage" in stores to reflect the new policy.
"I believe that customers might see that I'm wearing a mask and might think differently of me for not getting vaccinated," the Indiana worker told Insider. "I'm still going to continue to wear my mask, no matter what."
The freedom to drop masks could boost morale, one worker says
One Walmart employee in California said his supervisors have not informed him of how the new mask rules will change his job, as the state is still requiring face masks until June 15. Walmart requires stores to adhere to mask requirements dictated by city and state protocols, according to a memo sent to US store workers.
But the California worker said he's not worried about interactions with shoppers changing. He said it will initially feel strange to work without a mask but he expects to get used to it over time.
The employee told Insider Walmart's mask policy is "great, yet premature" because not enough California residents are vaccinated, however, and he worries unvaccinated people will stop wearing masks.
A fully vaccinated worker from Oklahoma also said he worries that non-vaccinated shoppers with stop wearing masks. He said he will continue to wear a mask at work for the safety of himself and his family.
"When the mask guidance changed, our company leadership took time to review the updated policy and felt comfortable we could adjust our requirements for customers and associates," a Walmart spokesperson told Insider.
Another worker in Texas said she is vaccinated, but still worries about getting COVID-19 and infecting her 60-year-old mother, with whom she shares a home. She said she doesn't mind wearing a mask, and thinks Walmart changed the mask guidance to cater to customers who complained about wearing them.
"I do think they are tired of people complaining about it and hardly anyone is following the rules as it is," the employee said.
A Walmart employee who works in the grocery department in a Massachusetts store said he's looking forward to life returning to normal and seeing what his coworkers' faces look like under their masks.
The worker said he has gotten one shot and is waiting for his second dose from a non-Walmart vaccine provider. Walmart offered his store $75 and permission to work without masks if they could provide proof of getting two shots.
"I think it'll probably start to boost morale a little," he told Insider. "Like we're getting out of this pandemic hole."
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