Coronavirus: Walmart drops mask mandate for fully vaccinated employees

Officials with Walmart told employees on Friday that if they are fully vaccinated they will no longer be made to wear masks while working at Walmart or Sam’s Club stores, with a few exceptions, according to multiple reports.

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In a memo sent Friday to employees in the U.S. and obtained by KFSM-TV, Reuters and The Dallas Morning News, the company’s chief people officer, Donna Morris, and chief medical officer, Dr. John Wig, shared updates to Walmart’s COVID-19 protocols.

“Effective immediately, fully vaccinated associates will not be required to wear masks while working in any Walmart or Sam’s Club facility, unless required by a state or local mandate or ordinance,” the message said, according to a copy shared by KFSM. “We will continue to monitor the situation and advise of any changes.”

In line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Walmart officials consider a person to be fully vaccinated after they’ve received two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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“Unvaccinated associates will be required to continue wearing masks until further notice,” officials said in the memo. “Additionally, masks will still be required for those associates who work in clinical care settings (e.g. health clinics and pharmacies) with direct patient/customer contact, regardless of vaccination status.”

Company officials added that they “support and respect an individual’s choice to continue wearing” a mask even if they are fully vaccinated.

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By the end of the month, Walmart also plans to drop daily health screenings for employees outside of California, New York and Virginia, where the screenings will continue in order to meet state requirements, officials said. The company will also end its COVID-19 emergency leave policy for employees at the end of next month “except as required by state or local mandates or ordinances.”

On Friday, Walmart officials urged employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, noting that vaccines protect well against hospitalizations and deaths caused by the viral infection.

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“Most hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated,” officials said in Friday’s memo. “If you have not been vaccinated, or if you are eligible for a booster, we encourage you to get your shots as soon as possible to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.”

Other companies have also announced plans to end mask mandates for employees as public health officials note a drop in reported COVID-19 cases nationwide. Amazon said in a memo to employees that as of Friday, it would no longer require fully vaccinated warehouse employees to wear masks, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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As of Friday morning, nearly 76% of the U.S. population – 251.7 million people – has gotten at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, CDC data shows. Just over 64% of Americans, or 213.5 million people, have been fully vaccinated, and nearly 43% of those who have been fully vaccinated have gotten booster shots, according to the CDC.

Officials have confirmed more than 77.6 million COVID-19 infections and reported over 918,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 408.2 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in 5.8 million deaths, according to the university.