By Sharon Terlep 

Best Buy Co. will require customers to wear face coverings inside all U.S. stores to protect against the new coronavirus, including in places without mask mandates.

Best Buy said its mask rule, which goes into effect on Wednesday, will "help protect not only our shoppers and communities, but also the tens of thousands of Best Buy employees working to serve our customers each day."

It joins a handful of national chains, including Starbucks Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp., with similar mask requirements as businesses seek to protect staff and patrons amid a surge in coronavirus cases in many parts of the country.

There is widespread scientific and medical consensus that face masks are critical in slowing the virus's spread. Questions over wearing them have fueled heated political debates in the U.S. and led to sometimes violent confrontations between retail workers enforcing mask rules and customers who refuse to cover their face.

More than 135,000 Americans have died from coronavirus and the number of new cases have hit highs in recent days, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. California's governor this week reversed plans to reopen businesses amid a rise in the state, ordering indoor dining and malls to close again.

Most major companies, from big-box retailers to pharmacy chains, require masks in places where state or local governments say they are mandatory. Some of those companies prohibit patrons from entering without a mask, while others request customers wear one but will still allow them in if they refuse.

A smaller number of retailers, however, have implemented countrywide policies. Costco did so in May and became a target for mask opponents. Apple Inc. also requires masks at all stores. Starbucks will require masks in its company-operated U.S. stores starting Wednesday.

Target Corp. store workers ask shoppers to wear one, often offering a mask for sale near the entrance, but are asked not to force the issue for safety reasons, said a person familiar with the company policy. At Walmart Inc., workers have to wear masks and shoppers are encouraged to do so with signage.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, in a television interview Monday on Bloomberg, said requiring masks in places without government mandates is "obviously something that's on our minds."

Best Buy, on its website, said it would provide masks to customers who don't have one. Small children and people unable to wear a mask for health reasons aren't required to wear them.

"Any customer who has a concern about wearing a mask will be able to shop Best Buy via our website and app and choose home delivery or contactless curbside pickup," the company said. A spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a question about how the retailer plans to enforce the policy.

--Sarah Nassauer contributed to this article.

Write to Sharon Terlep at sharon.terlep@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 14, 2020 18:10 ET (22:10 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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