HOUSTON — While a number of states immediately embraced new guidelines from the CDC that say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most situations, some businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Labor groups and others warned that employees at stores, restaurants and other businesses could be left exposed to the coronavirus from customers and could be forced into the unwanted role of “vaccination police.”
The CDC guidance unveiled Thursday still calls for masks in crowded indoor settings such as airports, planes, buses, trains, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, and says people should obey local and state regulations.
Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe's will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated customers.
Several major chains, including Target, Home Depot and grocer Kroger Co., announced that they would keep mask mandates in place for now.
Masks not required
On June 9, H-E-B announced it will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated customers, partners and vendors.
Target announced that fully vaccinated customers and employees will no longer need to wear a face mask in its stores, following new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
In an update on its website, Target said it will still follow state and local rules on masks. So if a store is located in a jurisdiction that requires masks indoors, it will apply to that Target location too.
CVS updated its mask policy on Monday, posting on its website that "customers who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear face coverings inside of our stores, unless it is mandated by state or local regulations."
"Customers who are not fully vaccinated are asked to continue wearing face coverings, and employees are required to do so while at work. Health, safety and science will continue to drive our decision-making process," the company's update online explains.
Walmart, Sam's Club
Walmart announced Friday that fully vaccinated customers can shop at Walmart and Sam's Club without wearing a face mask. The nation's largest retailer's announcement did not indicate that it plans to ask for any proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated employees must still wear masks.
Costco said Friday it will allow fully vaccinated members to shop without a mask, except in its Pharmacy, Optical and Hearing Aid sections. It will also follow state and local mandates, so stores in jurisdictions that require masks indoors will continue to enforce the rule. Costco says it won't be asking for proof of vaccination.
Trader Joe's was one of the first major retailers to update their policies to no longer require fully vaccinated shoppers to wear masks. A spokesperson told The Washington Post that other COVID-related policies, like face masks for employees, would stay.
"We encourage customers to follow the guidance of health officials, including, as appropriate, CDC guidelines that advise customers who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while shopping," an update to the COVID-19 policies listed on the Trader Joe's website said.
"Effective immediately, the Houston Zoo will no longer require guests to wear facial coverings while visiting, unless participating in a paid animal encounter such as a scheduled behind the scenes tour or giraffe feeding. The Zoo continues to strongly encourage all unvaccinated guests to wear masks, and wants everyone to exercise safe social distancing in crowded situations, regardless of their vaccination status."
A representative for Starbucks told CNN they plan to keep their policy mandating customers and employees wear masks.
Kroger, which operates nearly 3,000 grocery stores around the U.S., confirmed to KING that it would be keeping its mask mandates for customers and workers for now.
The company said it was reviewing the CDC's latest guidance, reviewing safety practices and "soliciting feedback from associates to guide the next phase of our policy."
A spokesperson confirmed that Home Depot has not updated its mask policy at this time.
On an earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek described the new guidelines as “very big news" and hinted that there could be a change to the mask requirement at Disney parks in the near future.
“Particularly, if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on. That could be quite daunting,” Chapek said. “So we think that’s going to make for an even more pleasant experience.”
Publix announced it would no longer require people to wear face masks indoors if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The grocery store chain said it made the change in response to new guidance from the CDC.
Harris Teeter said Friday that at this time it will continue to require everyone in their stores to wear masks.
"As we have throughout the pandemic, we are reviewing current safety practices, the CDC’s latest guidance, and soliciting feedback from our valued associates to guide the next phase of our policy," the company statement said.
Simon Property Group, which has shopping centers, malls and retail properties in 37 states and Puerto Rico, said Friday that it will continued to require employees, retailer employees and shoppers to wear masks, as well as provide free face coverings upon request.
Meijer said in a statement on Friday that it was keeping its mask mandate in place for shoppers.
"While we are aware of new CDC guidance, many state or local orders in the Meijer footprint remain in effect regarding masks. In order to help ensure the continued health and safety of all its team members and customers, Meijer continues to require face coverings by anyone entering a Meijer store or Meijer Express station at all locations, except where medical conditions prevent them from wearing one," the company said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.