TAMPA, Fla. — Publix has become the latest major chain of stores to require customers to wear face coverings at all times while shopping inside.
The new mask mandate will be effective on July 21. Customers in cities and counties that are already under government mask mandates won't notice a change.
Signs will be posted at entrances, and announces will be made over the speakers inside the grocery stores.
Young children and people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks are exempt from the new rules. The supermarket chain is encouraging people who can't wear masks to consider using delivery or curbside pickup when possible.
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“With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to grow and current CDC guidance indicating face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19, we believe requiring face coverings in our stores is another way we can do our part to help protect our communities,” Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous wrote in a news release.
Public Health doctors applaud the change. “I think these are really smart business decisions. On a number of levels, to me, they tell the community, and particularly their customers, that they care,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a public health physician with USF Health.
Dr. Levine is encouraged to see businesses making the decision to employees and customers with masks, “We know that being indoors is more risky than being outdoors," said Dr. Levine. "So if the businesses pass those policies, they're certainly helping. They're helping diminish the risk in a generally riskier place.”
Beyond face coverings, Publix has already implemented a number of changes during the pandemic. Here's the list they provided:
- Increased sanitation efforts through frequent and regular cleaning of high-touch surfaces like carts, door handles, PIN pads, ATMs and vending machines, using a disinfection cleaner before every store opens and throughout the day.
- Reduced store hours to allow extra time for store cleaning and preventive sanitation.
- Implemented contactless pay in all stores, allowing customers to pay by placing their smartphones or contactless pay-enabled credit or debit cards near a payment device rather than touching the PIN pad.
- Installed plexiglass shields at all registers and pharmacies to better protect both associates and customers.
- Implemented one-way shopping on each aisle to help with customer traffic flow.
- Initiated intercom announcements to remind customers to follow one-way shopping and maintain the recommended 6-foot distance between themselves, Publix associates and other shoppers.
- Provided store managers discretion to limit the number of customers inside stores. Stores under state or local ordinance to limit shoppers will continue to follow those guidelines.
- Provided store associates with masks to wear while at work and the option to wear non-latex plastic gloves.
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