Coronavirus: Publix employees must wear masks again starting Monday

Employees at Florida grocery giant Publix Super Markets will be required to wear face coverings regardless of their COVID-19 status starting Monday.

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The Lakeland, Florida-based grocery store chain, which has 1,270 outlets in seven states across the Southeast, had previously allowed vaccinated employees not to wear masks, The Ledger of Lakeland reported.

The move comes after Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, reversed its face-covering policy and said that employees must wear masks beginning Monday.

In a statement to media outlets, Publix said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance recommends that people in areas of substantial or high transmission risk should wear face coverings in public, indoor spaces.

“Effective Aug. 2, Publix is requiring associates, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix location, and we encourage all to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, the statement said. “We continue to encourage, but not require, our associates to get vaccinated.”

>> Coronavirus: Walmart requires employees to wear face masks in some areas

Florida has led the nation in new cases in recent weeks because of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant. The Florida Department of Health, in a report released Friday afternoon, said there were 110,477 new cases of COVID-19 this week, the Sun-Sentinel reported. Florida had 73,199 cases last week, according to the newspaper.

Publix has 870 stores in Florida, 192 in Georgia, 49 in North Carolina and 64 in South Carolina.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, all but one of Florida’s 67 counties have high transmission rates, WFLA reported. The exception, Glades County, has just substantial transmission, the television station reported.

Publix’s announcement does not address whether customers would be asked to wear masks, the Ledger reported. However, a spokesperson said that Publix “encourage(s) all to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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