By Lenore Fedow
A Walmart employee wipes down a register while wearing a mask. The retailer will soon require masks to be worn in its stores, a policy the National Retail Federation said more retailers should implement. (Image courtesy of Walmart)
Washington, D.C.—The National Retail Federation is calling on all retailers to implement a policy requiring customers to wear face masks while in stores.

The news follows Walmart’s announcement it would adopt a mask policy as of July 20 throughout its more than 5,000 locations.

The retailer has created a new position of “health ambassador” to enforce the policy, stationing employees near the entrance to remind customers of the new policy.

Other major retailers requiring masks include Starbucks, Best Buy, Apple and Costco.

“Workers serving customers should not have to make a critical decision as to whether they should risk exposure to infection or lose their jobs because a minority of people refuse to wear masks in order to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus,” the NRF said in a press release.

It noted stores are private businesses and can adopt policies permitted by law for the health and safety of its customers and employees.

“Shopping in a store is a privilege, not a right. If a customer refuses to adhere to store policies, they are putting employees and other customers at undue risk.”

The association, alongside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and other industry groups, cosigned a letter sent to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. governors earlier this month calling for a national mask standard.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Target, Home Depot and other major retailers, sent a similar letter earlier this month to the National Governors Association, stressing the need for a “uniform approach” to safety measures, like wearing masks and social distancing.

The RILA’s letter highlighted the “troubling incidents” on social media involving “aggressive customers” refusing to wear masks.

“Despite compliance from the majority of Americans, retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties,” the organization said.

The RILA stated store employees should not be the ones primarily responsible for enforcing mask mandates and added retailers shouldn’t be fined for a customer’s non-compliance.

Only some states have universal mask mandates, including New York, California, Connecticut, and Washington, but the list has been gradually expanding.

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