Costco will no longer make an exemption for people who say they can’t wear a face covering because of a medical condition.
The wholesale club’s updated face mask policy goes into effect Monday and requires all members, guests and employees to wear a face mask or a face shield in order to shop in its nearly 560 clubs nationwide.
“If a member has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they must wear a face shield at Costco,” the retailer’s president and CEO Craig Jelinek wrote in a letter to members, noting entry to Costco “will only be granted to those wearing a face mask or face shield.”
Children under 2 continue to be exempt from wearing a face covering with the updated policy.
“This updated policy may seem inconvenient to some, however we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience,” Jelinek wrote. “Our goal is to continue to provide a safe shopping environment for our members and guests, and to provide a safe work environment for our employees.”
Costco’s original policy went into effect in early May and didn’t require shoppers with medical conditions to wear masks.
Costco says the use of face coverings isn’t a substitute for social distancing and notes it has delivery options on its website for “members who are unable to wear a mask or face covering.”
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Thirty-five states – plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – now require people to wear face coverings in public statewide, according to a list maintained by AARP. Utah and North Dakota joined the list in recent days, and Maine, Ohio and West Virginia strengthened their mandates this week.
Mask compliance has sparked debates throughout the pandemic as Americans received mixed messages from authorities over whether they should wear face coverings in public places.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said for months that wearing masks slows the spread of COVID-19.
As the nation edged further into the stay-at-home era, viral videos of conflicts over mask requirements at businesses have become common to see. A handful of the viral videos of shoppers refusing to wear masks were taken by shoppers at Costco.
In late August, the CDC released new guidance for businesses operating during the pandemic: Don’t argue with shoppers not wearing masks.
“Don’t argue with customers if they make threats or become violent,” the CDC advised in the recommendations aimed at curbing the violence that occurs when some people don’t want to follow COVID-19 prevention policies. “Don’t attempt to force anyone who appears to be angry or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention policies.”
Contributing: Grace Hauck and Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko