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Walmart will start requiring all customers to wear masks

Most major retailers and grocers initially hesitated to enact their own mask mandates for customers during the pandemic, partly over fears of antagonizing shoppers who refuse to wear them.

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Video above: Rossen Reports: We conducted a mask experiment at grocery stores. Here’s what we found

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, is the latest national chain to require all customers to wear masks.

The change will start next week. Starbucks said last week that it will require customers to wear facial coverings or masks in all 9,000 of its company-owned U.S. stores beginning Wednesday.

Best Buy announced Tuesday that it will also require all shoppers coming into its approximately 1,000 stores to wear face masks. Costco began requiring its members to wear masks in stores beginning in May.

Although no federal mandate to wear a mask exists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone "should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public." The CDC said "face coverings are meant to protect other people."

Most major retailers and grocers initially hesitated to enact their own mask mandates for customers during the pandemic, partly over fears of antagonizing shoppers who refuse to wear them. Retailers have said they are reluctant to put their employees in the position of enforcing mask requirements.

But the ground in the retail and restaurant industries has shifted in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic worsens. Cases are climbing in much of the country and many cities and states are reimposing restrictions to contain new outbreaks, including mask requirements in public settings.

"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," Walmart said in a news release Wednesday. About 65% of its more than 5,000 stores, including its Sam's Club locations, are located in areas where there is government mandate on face coverings.

"To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20. This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols," the company said.

Industry groups and unions have also stepped up their calls around mask requirements for customers.

Last week, the Retail Leaders Industry Association, an industry trade group, called on the nation's governors to pass statewide mandates requiring citizens to wear masks in public. The United Food and Commercial Workers' Union also urged government officials and business leaders to require masks for customers in an advertisement over the weekend.

Walmart asking for credit, debit card use due to coin shortage

Walmart is also joining other retailers nationwide that are encouraging customers to use credit or debit cards for payments instead of cash due to a national coin shortage.

In a statement to WMAZ, Walmart spokesperson Avani Dudhia said cash is welcome at all Walmart stores, but some self-checkout registers have been designated for card use only. Some stores have converted registers to card use only on an as-needed basis, her statement said.

"Like most retailers, we’re experiencing the affects of the nation-wide coin shortage," Dudhia told WMAZ. "We’re asking customers to pay with card or use correct change when possible if they need to pay with cash."

Kroger stores are no longer providing coin change for most transactions.

Signs are posted throughout most area stores informing customers of the new change. Customers at all manned checkout lines will no longer receive coins back for cash payments.

Instead, customers are being asked to use exact change.