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‘It’s safe for everybody’

Walmart customers embrace new mask requirement

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walmart ambassador 20-07-20

A Walmart "health ambassador" stands near the entrance of Carroll's Walmart Supercenter to greet customers and offer masks to those who do not have a face covering.

The new mask requirement at Walmart caused little commotion in Carroll when it went into effect Monday.

“I kind of have mixed feelings for requirements, but I think it’s not a terrible idea, especially because they’re providing (masks),” said Tim Hartman, a Halbur resident who sometimes had been wearing a face covering in public before this week. “I know actually at first I had a little trouble because I couldn’t find any masks. It took a while.”

Walmart announced the mask requirement last week to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Such requirements have polarized the country, with large swaths of people claiming the masks are ineffective and an unnecessary form of government control.

Following Walmart’s announcement customers would be required to wear face coverings, some took to social media to say they would “shop elsewhere,” but the company is among a growing number of corporations that now require their customers to wear face coverings in their locations nationwide, including Target, Apple, Walgreens, CVS and Best Buy.

Julie Schroeder, the Arcadia city clerk who shopped at Carroll's Walmart on Monday, applauded the new requirement and said it should have happened sooner.

“Maybe the numbers would have gone down instead of up,” she said of confirmed coronavirus cases.

Disputes about mask in public sometimes have become violent across the country, but there were no such incidents at Walmart in Carroll, at least on Monday morning, according to a “health ambassador” working at the store.

Walmart created the ambassador position in the past week to enforce its face covering requirement for people entering its stores.

A station under a blue Walmart-branded tent was newly set up at the entrance to the store, where the ambassador stood at a small table.

The ambassador greeted customers with a “good morning” and reminded patrons to wear a face covering. If people forgot one at home or did not have one, they were offered a disposable mask to wear while they were in the store.

There are a few exceptions to the new face covering requirement, said Rebecca Thomason, a corporate Walmart spokeswoman.

“We understand it may not be possible for all customers to wear masks, so our health ambassadors are trained on how to best handle exceptions, whether medical or religious, to reduce friction,” she said.

A July Gallup survey found 72 percent of Americans “always” or “very often” wear a face mask outside their home, compared to 11 percent who do “sometimes,” 4 percent who “rarely” do and 14 percent who “never” wear a mask outside their home.

“It’s safe for me, and it’s safe for everybody,” said Diane Schettler, who has a local sewing business and wants other businesses to follow Walmart’s lead. “I hope they do, because we’ve got to get this thing stopped. I don’t think it’s a political thing. I think we actually need to get it taken care of.”

Masks have been embraced with less urgency in Carroll County, which has had relatively few confirmed coronavirus cases compared with other parts of the state and country.

There were 135 confirmed cases in Carroll this morning. At least 115 of those infected people have recovered, and one has died.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called on Americans to wear face coverings in a news release, saying “we are not defenseless” against the new coronavirus.

“Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting,” he said in a news release last week. “All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”

President Donald Trump also called on Americans to wear face coverings in a Monday afternoon tweet, saying it is “patriotic” to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance.

While the CDC and other health officials and organizations have urged the wearing of face coverings to mitigate the spread of the virus, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has not joined 28 other states in issuing a statewide mandate for people to wear face coverings in public, and she has said cities cannot issue such mandates without her permission. However, this does not prevent businesses from mandating patrons wear face coverings in their stores.

Customers who do not follow store rules can be removed for trespassing.

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