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LeAnna Ferris provides a mask to an Ephraim Walmart customer.

 

Walmart mask mandate designed to help

protect patrons as COVID-19 figures rise

 

By Rhett Wilkinson

Staff writer

7-30-2020

EPHRAIM—Walmart customers told the Sanpete Messenger that they are fine with wearing masks as required by the corporation.

Sierra Ballard of Ephraim said, “I don’t mind it, but I feel bad for the Karens out there.”

(A “Karen” is a problematic white woman, according to Business Insider.)

Ballard also said she feels bad for those with medical conditions.

If Ballard can help end COVID-19, she will, she said.

Kortnie Lewis of Manti said, “I think it’s a good thing.”

“Anything to keep people safe,” Lewis said. “I’m in healthcare, though, so I’m used to wearing them.”

Mandy Varejcka said, “It doesn’t really bother me. If that’s what they want, then go ahead and do it.

“It is what it is,” Varejcka added. “We are all going to have to deal with it for a while.”

Shanae McPherson said, “I personally don’t think that wearing a mask is beneficial, but it’s not Walmart’s fault.”

Walmart spokesperson Casey Staheli, to whom Ephraim store manager Blain Hardy sent the Messenger, said “I don’t have specifics on the Ephraim store” when asked about how the mask mandate is received in Ephraim and what customer feedback has been like.

“I can tell you that basically everyone brings masks or is ready to comply with the requirement,” Staheli said.

Hardy did tell the Messenger that he got four calls before speaking with the newspaper and they all had to do with masks.

Walmart, besides other big stores, will continue to do business with patrons who won’t wear masks, CNN Business reported.

“The new rules only go so far,” CNN Business reported. “The issue, they say, is they want to avoid confrontations between angry customers and employees.”

“Retailers and their employees are finding themselves playing the uncomfortable role of mask police. The increase in coronavirus cases is prompting concern over how to protect both customers and workers in crowded stores from infecting each other,” CNN Business reported. “There is no federal mandate to wear a mask, and many state and local governments have not required wearing one. This has forced retailers to navigate a patchwork system and left them in the position of having to create their own policies.”

“Many retailers feel like they have to act since some governors haven’t,” Retail Industry Leaders Association spokeswoman Melissa Murdock stated. RILA advocates for corporations like Walmart, Walgreens, Target and more. On July 6, the organization wrote to the National Governors Association, stating that public officials should put forward the same mask requirements throughout the United States.

“Labor advocates and retailers agree that store employees should not be the ones enforcing mask wearing. But it’s not clear who will fill the void,” CNN Business reported. “Critics say that makes the new wave of retailers’ mask requirements toothless.”

“Either security or management needs to tell people that they must wear a face mask in order to be served. It’s no different than wearing shoes or a shirt,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum said. If corporations “are not requiring customers to wear a mask within their store, then they never had a requirement. All they had was a public relations stunt.”

Walmart stated it would put health ambassadors at store entrances to point out wearing a mask to shoppers entering a store.

But a brief training video for ambassadors says there are parameters to the job. If a customer won’t put on a mask, ambassadors are told to allow the customer into the store and tell a manager “so that they can determine the next steps.”

In talking points for Walmart managers and ambassadors, a manager is told to inquire if a customer would like a complimentary mask. If they won’t take the mask, “let them continue to shop,” a talking point says.

“The video tells ambassadors to not engage with a customer physically or try to block their entrance into the store,” CNN Business reported.

“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 agent stated. “Our goal is to keep associates from a physical confrontation in the stores.”

Walmart is also putting up signs regarding the policies, which don’t include small children who cannot don a mask because of religion or health, and stating policies over the store loudspeaker.