Policies & Issues

5 Things Retailers Should Know About COVID-19 Safety

Policies & IssuesAug 03, 2021

5 Things Retailers Should Know About COVID-19 Safety

As the Delta variant spreads rapidly, some retailers are reinstating mask mandates and requiring employees to get vaccinated.

Amid a rise in the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the CDC has updated its guidance and some retailers are rethinking their store policies as well.
New York—The health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19 have continued to evolve as scientists and the medical community learn more about the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance last week, reinstating its mask policy in certain cases as the Delta variant spreads rapidly.

Here are five things retailers should know about the shifting situation.

The Delta variant is spreading quickly.

First identified in India in December, the highly contagious virus strain ran rampant through the country, then the U.K., and now in the U.S., where it has become the dominant variant, according to Yale Medicine.

By the end of July, it was the cause of more than 80 percent of new U.S. COVID-19 cases, the CDC estimates.

“In a completely unmitigated environment—where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks—it’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people,” said Dr. F. Perry Wilson of Yale Medicine. 

“In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.”

 
Mask guidance from the CDC has changed.

The CDC recommends those who are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 years or older should wear a mask in indoor public places.

In most outdoor settings, you do not need to wear a mask.

However, in areas with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, regardless of vaccination status, you may want to wear a mask in crowded outdoor areas or during activities where you will be in close contact with those who are not fully vaccinated.

Those with a compromised immune system, even if fully vaccinated, should take the same precautions as the unvaccinated, including wearing a mask, unless otherwise advised by their healthcare provider.

Masks are still required on public transportation, including planes, buses, and trains, and while indoors at airports, stations, and other transportation areas.

Retailers are reinstating mask guidelines.

As the Delta variant raises concern, some retailers are once again requiring masks to be worn in stores.

“As the virus changes, variants spread, and vaccine hesitancy in some populations continues, retailers understand that CDC guidance may evolve and masks may be necessary again in some circumstances,” said the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) in a press release.

RILA asked customers to be mindful of the guidance and be respectful of employees and customers who continue to wear masks for their safety.

Last week, Apple announced it would start requiring employees and customers to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status in more than half of its stores.

Walmart is requiring its workers and encouraging its customers, including those who are vaccinated, to wear masks in areas with high COVID-19 infection rates.

The retail giant will also have employees, or “health ambassadors,” at the door handing out masks and will bring back signs explaining its policy.

Grocery chain Kroger is also encouraging shoppers, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask in stores.

As of Monday, Publix will also require all store employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask.

Target followed suit and is now requiring masks for employees in high-risk areas.

 Related stories will be right here … 

Some retailers are also requiring employees to be vaccinated.

In addition to a mask mandate, Walmart is requiring select employees to get vaccinated.

Its home office workers and management-level staff members who travel within the U.S. will need to be vaccinated by Oct. 4.

The requirement does not extend to store employees.

However, the company will double its vaccine incentive to $150 for workers in its stores, Sam’s Club stores, and its transportation, distribution, and fulfillment centers.

Private companies and government agencies can require employees to be vaccinated as a condition of working there.

“The best defense against the virus is getting more people vaccinated. Leading retailers are working diligently to help vaccinate Americans and are providing paid leave and other benefits to reduce any barriers for employees to be vaccinated,” said RILA.

The vaccine is still effective, says the CDC.

While there is more to learn about the virus, the CDC reiterated the vaccines are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, including severe illness and death.

Even up against the variants, the vaccines are effective against severe disease and death.

Though infections can occur in fully vaccinated people, that has only happened to a small percentage of those vaccinated. When it does happen, the effects are usually mild.

If you are fully vaccinated and are infected with the Delta variant, you can spread it to others, as per the CDC.

Those with a weakened immune system and those who are on immunosuppressive medications may not be protected even if they are fully vaccinated.

For more information about COVID-19 and the vaccine, visit the CDC website.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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