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Kroger, Walmart, Best Buy, others join chorus for masks

People wait in line at the Krogers on Wayne Ave. Thursday July 9, 2020. The U.S. Census Bureau looked at how Americans spent their stimulus checks. JIM NOELKER/STAFF
People wait in line at the Krogers on Wayne Ave. Thursday July 9, 2020. The U.S. Census Bureau looked at how Americans spent their stimulus checks. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Shoppers at Kroger, Walmart and Sam’s Club will be required to wear face masks or face coverings starting next week, a move that adds to the chorus for masks in retail settings nationwide.

“I think it’s awesome,” a mask-wearing Annie Lickliter said Wednesday afternoon outside the Moraine Walmart store. “Absolutely. I think all stores should require it. And people who don’t want to do it should be turned away.”

There seems to be a growing impetus to require face coverings, at least in businesses and other public places. Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, is instituting its own requirement. The National Retail Federation is urging retailers to do likewise.

“Good idea,” said Victor Williams as he headed into the same West Dorothy Lane store, also wearing a mask.

Ohio government already requires residents in Montgomery and Butler counties to wear masks indoors — in buildings that aren’t private residences — on public transportation or outside in public areas when social distancing isn’t possible.

Shopper Teresa Leight was not wearing a face covering in Walmart’s parking lot Wednesday, but she said she has tried to wear a mask in public since the state order was imposed in Montgomery and six other Ohio counties.

“I try to play by the rules,” a smiling Leight said, adding: “My mask is in my car, I promise.”

Kroger announced Wednesday its new policy will begin July 22.

“With the increase in COVID-19 cases across the country, we are committed to doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus. We will require all customers in all locations to wear a mask, joining our associates who continue to wear masks,” the Kroger statement says.

Walmart’s statement was similar.

“From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our focus and priority has been and continues to be on the health and safety of our associates, members and customers,” Walmart said in a statement Wednesday. “As the number of confirmed cases has spiked in communities across the country recently, so too have the number and types of face covering mandates being implemented.”

About 65% of the company’s 5,000 stores are already in areas where there is some type of mandate requiring face coverings, Walmart said.

“The health and safety of associates and customers is retailers’ number one priority and wearing a face covering or mask is scientifically proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the National Retail Federation said in its own release. “NRF applauds the leadership of companies like Walmart, Starbucks, Best Buy, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Apple, Qurate Retail Group, Costco and others that have implemented nationwide mask mandates.”

The idea behind requiring masks is that they help slow the spread of COVID-19. As states reopen from stay-at-home orders, many states are requiring people to wear face coverings in most public places.

But opponents or skeptics object that initially the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization did not recommend masks. And some question their effectiveness when masks aren’t worn correctly, as they sometimes aren’t. Health experts say coverings should be placed over one’s mouth and nose.

And some question whether the coverings can really stop the COVID virus.

“Virus can sneak around the edges,” Kaiser Health News quoted Melissa Perry, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., as saying in an April 7 story.

“We don’t want people to feel like, ‘Oh, I’m wearing a mask. I’m protected and I’m protecting others,’” Dr. Deborah Birx said in a late March White House briefing before the CDC issued a recommendation on the subject. Birx is a member of the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Since then, however, health officials have increasingly recommended the use of masks and face coverings.