Walmart is requiring all workers at its headquarters, as well as its managers who travel within the US, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4. The retailer also is reversing its mask policy for its employees in stores, clubs, distribution facilities, and warehouses, the AP reports. Going forward, they will be required to wear masks in areas with high infection rates, even if they have been vaccinated. The moves are part of sweeping measures the nation’s largest retailer and private employer announced Friday to help curb the spread of the virus. A memo to employees said the company wants “to see many more of you vaccinated.” After Walmart’s announcement, the Walt Disney Co. said it will require all salaried and nonunion hourly employees at any of its US sites to be fully vaccinated. Workers who aren’t already vaccinated will have 60 days from Friday to complete their protocols, and new hires will be have to be fully vaccinated to start employment. “Vaccines are the best tool we all have to help control this global pandemic and protect our employees,” Disney said.
Walmart’s vaccine mandate excludes frontline workers, who the company says have a lower vaccination rate than management. But it’s hoping that managerial employees, who represent a fraction of the company’s 1.5 million employees, will serve as inspiration. Walmart will also bring back so-called health ambassadors who hand out masks at store entrances. Also Friday, Kroger announced that it will be encouraging workers and customers to wear masks at its stores, including people who are fully vaccinated. But the grocer said it will not be issuing a vaccine mandate for employees. Another grocer, Publix, said Friday that all employees will have to be masked at all stores, starting Monday, per NPR. Ken Perkins of retail research firm Retail Metrics said Walmart’s move could serve as a “green light” to other companies to require vaccines, given its huge number of employees and customers, as well as its heavy presence in areas with low vaccination rates.
(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)
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