By Sarah Nassauer

 

Walmart Inc., the country's largest private employer, said it would no longer require vaccinated workers and shoppers to wear masks in stores and warehouses outside of municipalities that require it.

The shift comes one day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who have completed a Covid-19 vaccine no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most settings. Walmart's new no-mask policy for workers goes into effect May 18, the company said. Vaccinated customers could shop maskless starting Friday.

In a memo to staff, executives said they would also give any vaccinated worker a $75 payment. "We're encouraging all associates to get vaccinated," said the email. "We're excited to share two more reasons why: a cash bonus and no masks." To receive the payment workers need to show their vaccination card to managers. To go maskless, workers have to say they are vaccinated during the health screenings each worker takes to start a shift.

The company continues to review whether masks should be worn for certain jobs, said the email, and workers can continue to wear masks if they want to.

Walmart's over 5,000 Walmart and Sam's Club stores have been a rare public gathering spot for millions of people each week throughout the pandemic. Walmart's rules on masks, Covid-19 related worker leave and other pandemic policies have helped set the tone for the industry.

The country's largest retailer by revenue first mandated masks for its 1.6 million U.S. workers last April, then required masks for shoppers last July. At the time Walmart said around 65% of its stores were in states that already mandated mask wearing inside stores.

Many other companies have thus far kept mask requirements in place or said they are reviewing the CDC's new guidelines. In a Twitter message, grocer Trader Joe's said it would drop its mask requirement for vaccinated customers. It won't require proof of vaccination, said a spokesperson.

Like many other retailers, Walmart has required shoppers to wear masks but enforcement by store workers varies. Workers don't order shoppers to do so if they resist, in part to protect employees, the company has said.

 

Write to Sarah Nassauer at Sarah.Nassauer@WSJ.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 14, 2021 17:36 ET (21:36 GMT)

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