Publix says it will require customers at all stores to wear masks

Despite the requirement, Publix's announcement didn't come with plans of additional enforcement.
A shopper is seen leaving the Publix Super Markets store located along U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Publix shopper Bill Dunn, 65, of Holiday, was banned from store after asking management why they were not enforcing mask use.
A shopper is seen leaving the Publix Super Markets store located along U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Publix shopper Bill Dunn, 65, of Holiday, was banned from store after asking management why they were not enforcing mask use. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Jul. 16, 2020|Updated Jul. 16, 2020

Publix joins a growing list of retailers that say they will now require customers to wear face masks, even at those stores that don’t fall under local mask orders.

Throughout Tampa Bay, local orders have already required shoppers to wear masks inside businesses, but that hasn’t stopped people from regularly going into Publix and other retailers without face coverings.

Starting July 21, all Publix locations will have signs posted saying shoppers must wear masks. Stores will also have in-store announcements made regularly reminding shoppers to wear masks and stay 6 feet away from others — which the chain has been doing in its stores across Tampa Bay.

Publix announced the decision on Thursday, the same day CVS, Walgreens and Target made similar announcements. Grocery leaders Walmart and Kroger announced mask requirement policies on Wednesday.

“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 spokeswoman Maria Brous said in a statement.

Related: ‘Highly irate:’ Tampa Bay mask rules spur hundreds of police calls

Publix’s news release did not include any information about how it would enforce the policy. Other stores, such as Walmart and Winn-Dixie, have employees stationed at their front doors to remind shoppers to wear masks. Walmart has also started giving its employees deescalation training for dealing with shoppers who refuse to comply.

Target says it will hand out masks at store entrances by the time its policy begins on Aug. 1. Publix has had free masks available for its shoppers at its customer service counters in Tampa Bay.

Publix says children and those with relevant medical conditions do not have to wear masks, but encourages those shoppers to order their groceries for delivery or curbside pickup. The other retailers also said those with underlying medical conditions would be exempt from the policies.

In its statement, CVS said it was not asking employees to be the new policy’s “enforcers.”

“What we are asking is that customers help protect themselves and those around them by listening to the experts and heeding the call to wear a face covering,” CVS said in statement.

Tampa Bay stores have been dealing with the question of enforcement since local governments began making their own mask orders last month. A recent Tampa Bay Times report found only one local municipality was citing peopleor businesses for mask order violations. The City of St. Petersburg fined 109 businesses in the first two weeks of the its citywide mask order, but the mask fines had been focused on employees not wearing face coverings. Meanwhile, other local agencies said they were focusing on education.

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The Times found that local law enforcement had fielded hundreds of phone calls over people refusing to wear masks while inside grocery stores and other businesses. Several shoppers who declined to wear masks, or argued over mask use with employees, were banned from the stores after law enforcement responded.

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