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After CDC change, Walmart says employees, customers can ditch masks

The change in policy comes a day after the CDC changed its guidance to say the fully vaccinated don't need to wear masks in most settings.
Image: Walmart
A woman wearing a mask walks past a Walmart store in Washington, DC on July 15, 2020.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images file

Masks will no longer be required for fully vaccinated Walmart employees or customers starting Tuesday, the retailer said one day after federal health officials changed guidance on face coverings.

In a memo Friday, the nation's largest retail chain also announced a $75 bonus for employees who are or get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that those fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in most settings, including indoors.

President Joe Biden called the change "a great milestone." It offered hope of a return to some sense of normalcy in a pandemic that has killed more than 580,000 people in the United States.

Masks are still required in some other settings, like at airports and on planes and other forms of public transportation.

Trader Joe’s on Friday said fully vaccinated customers no longer need to wear masks in stores, becoming the first major chain to drop its mask policy.

Another chain, Publix, said it would no longer require masks for the vaccinated starting Saturday. Its stores are in seven states in the South, including Florida.

The pharmacy chain Walgreens, which does vaccinations and testing for the disease, is keeping its mask rules in place.

Target, Gap and Home Depot also were among the companies keeping their mask rules unchanged for the time being.

State, local and business rules on masks still apply, and the CDC guidance does not change that. But some states have reacted by dropping mask requirements.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the state was "going from mask-wearing requirements to mask-wearing suggestions and guidance." There will be places where masks or proof of vaccination is required, he said, like prisons and healthcare settings.

Polis, a Democrat, and other officials have used the new mask guidelines to encourage people to get vaccinated.

As of Friday, a little more than 36 percent of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC's website. For those 18 years of age or older that number is 46.1 percent.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday that the state's mask mandate would be lifted at midnight, but they will still be required in schools.

The governors of Kansas and Minnesota also lifted state mask mandates Thursday — although in Minnesota, Minneapolis is keeping its rules for now as it reviews vaccination data, and St. Paul is requiring masks in city-controlled facilities.

California and New York were among states reviewing the new CDC guidance but which have not announced any changes. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his state was keeping the mask rules for public settings for now.

"We’ve come much too far to backslide now," Murphy tweeted, adding that he was hopeful the state would be able to approach its vaccination goals and lift the mandate soon.