Mask-weary Americans received some welcome news on Thursday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
relaxed its guidance on face coverings, stating that those who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus
would no longer need to wear masks
in most situations, including indoors.
The president of the United Food
and Commercial Workers union, which represents hundreds of thousands of grocery store workers, is not celebrating. He warns that the relaxed protocols are unfair to store clerks and cashiers, who have no way of knowing who is and isn't vaccinated.
“Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police
for unvaccinated shoppers who refuse to follow local COVID safety measures,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a statement.
Federal officials hope that the policy change will encourage more Americans to get vaccinated, with the reward of a return to a more normal life. However, the union claims that the CDC
failed to consider how the guidance would impact essential workers before making the surprise announcement on Thursday. Perrone wants the agency to provide more clarity on “how this new policy will be implemented.”
Are [employees] now expected to act as vaccine
Marc Perrone, President of UFCW
The CDC noted that people
would still be required to follow local regulations, and grocers and retailers are free to maintain their own mask requirements for workers and customers. However, the UFCW is concerned that the patchwork of rules may lead to confusion and confrontations in stores as a result of the new blanket guidance from federal health
Throughout the pandemic
, grocery and retail store employees have been put in an awkward position, frequently having to ask maskless customers to put on face coverings indoors, which has been met with hostile and even violent reactions from patrons who refuse to wear them.
Retailers and grocers have already begun to respond in various ways.
, the country's largest grocery chain, said in a statement to Stardia that it intends to continue requiring customers to wear masks when visiting stores. Walmart, the country's largest retailer, did not immediately respond when asked if it is adjusting its mask policy in light of the CDC's change. Target told USA Today that it is keeping its mask requirement in place and will "revi
Trader Joe's, on the other hand, announced on Friday that it would relax its mask policy, allowing customers who are fully vaccinated to avoid wearing them.
“We encourage customers to follow the advice of health officials, including, as appropriate, CDC guidelines that advise fully vaccinated customers are not required to wear masks while shopping,” the company said.
States, like employers, were reacting differently to the new guidance. Minnesota
Gov. Tim Walz (D) lifted the state's mask mandate
on Friday following the CDC's announcement, while New York
Gov. Andrew Cuomo
(D) and New Jersey
Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said their states' mask requirements would remain in place for the time being.
However, there may be some differences between states. Despite the change in Minnesota policy, Minneapolis
Mayor Jacob Frey said the city would maintain its requirement for masking indoors. Mayors of other major cities, including Washington and New York, said they would review the new CDC guidance before changing their own local rules.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group for retailers, has asked customers to follow a store's policy regardless of the new CDC guidance, claiming that the CDC's announcement creates "ambiguity" for businesses by increasing discrepancies between state and local orders.
“These opposing viewpoints place retailers and their employees in extremely difficult situations,” the group claimed.