Walmart, Sam’s Club to require customers to wear face masks

Customers shopping at Walmart and Sam's Club stores nationwide will be required to wear face masks beginning next week due to the threat of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, company officials said Wednesday.

In a news release, officials said about 65% or more of the company's 5,000 stores and clubs are in areas where government officials have issued some form a mask mandate.

"To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20," company officials said.

“While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities. According to the CDC, face coverings help decrease the spread of COVID-19, and because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are infected, it’s critically important for everyone to wear a face covering in public and social distance.”

Company officials said that to help implement the mandate a new health ambassador position has been created. Store health ambassadors will be stationed near store entrances "to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers," officials said. Stores and clubs will also close all but a single entrance to customers.

"We know it may not be possible for everyone to wear a face covering," officials said. "Our associates will be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction for the shopper and make the process as easy as possible for everyone."

Walmart operates more than 4,750 stores nationwide and nearly 600 Sam’s Club locations. The company employs more than 1.5 million people in the U.S.

More than 3.4 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. since the pandemic began, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest number of deaths with 136,000 killed by the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.