Updated May 15, 2021 - Health

How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance

Picture of an entrance to Target with a sign that says customers are required to wear masks indoors

Photo: Scott Dalton/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some retailers across the U.S. will continue requiring masks in stores, despite new coronavirus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing mask mandates for fully vaccinated people.

The latest: Starbucks announced that masks will be "optional" for fully vaccinated customers starting May 17 "unless local regulations require them by law." Employees will still be required to wear face coverings and restrooms will remain closed to the public in stores where indoor seating is not available.

  • Walmart also announced fully vaccinated customers will not be required to wear masks. Face coverings will become optional for vaccinated employees starting May 18, and the company will offer workers a $75 bonus for getting inoculated.

The big picture: While the CDC said it made the recommendation "based on a body of evidence and what the science tells us," some experts say that the risk of infection in indoor venues remains a threat for unvaccinated people.

The state of play: Target, Macy's, Kroger, Publix and Home Depot are among those that are still requiring masks to be worn and have not updated their virus policies, according to Insider.

  • Other retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Gap are in the process of evaluating the guidance and reviewing whether they will change their rules, per Insider.

The other side: Trader Joe's updated its policies and said it will not be requiring fully vaccinated individuals to wear masks and wants customers to follow CDC recommendations.

What they're saying: "We’re not going to know who’s vaccinated and who’s not so I don’t expect it to be different when you go to the grocery store," Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Axios’ Marisa Fernandez.

  • "I expect the grocery stores are still going to want people to wear masks because they can’t possibly ask people, 'are you vaccinated are you not?' We don’t have an easy way to prove vaccination status."

The bottom line: "We urge all retail customers and guests to follow a store’s safety protocols including wearing a mask and social distancing," said Lisa Bruno, a senior executive vice president for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, per the Post.

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