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Retail Group Calls for Mandatory Masking in All States

The benefits of masks ‘should no longer be up for debate,’ says the group’s president.

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The Retail Industry Leaders Association is seeking mandatory masking in every state to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group’s president, Brian Dodge, sent a letter to two leaders of the National Governor’s Association: Chair Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., governor of Maryland, and Vice Chair Andrew M. Cuomo, governor of New York. Dodge wrote that a “patchwork of local mandates” for retailers “made it incredibly difficult to focus on implementing the right safety protocols.”

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“While well-intended at the time, conflicts stemming from local law enforcement agencies applying their own interpretations of conflicting state and local mandates forced retailers to shift valuable time and resources away from store operations,” according to the letter. “We strongly urge governors to continue issuing concise, statewide orders that create clarity for all businesses, local governments and law enforcement. Conflicting orders and guidelines from counties and municipalities create confusion for employees and customers, and ultimately leads to conflict.”

He said the positive effect of combining social distancing with masking “is now abundantly clear” and “should no longer be up for debate.” Nonetheless, retailers “are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties.”

Dodge stated: “We urge every governor to require customers who are not encumbered by a medical condition to wear masks when shopping or in public spaces.”

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“Given the troubling incidents we have all seen on social media involving aggressive customers refusing to wear a mask, we strongly recommend that store employees not be charged with primary enforcement of mask mandates and that retailers not be fined for a customer’s non-compliance,” he wrote. “Retailers are using extensive signage at entrances and throughout the store to enforce safety policies, and we recommend this be the role of retailers and their employees – to clearly communicate policy, but not physically confront customers.”

The trade association’s membership includes major retailers such as Walmart, Target and Home Depot, as well as Petco and PetsMart.

Masks are popular among PETS+ readers. In a recent COVID-19 Impact Survey, we focused on the segment of the pet industry most impacted by government restrictions: grooming salons and grooming departments in pet stores.

We asked, “Are you requiring employees to wear masks?” A combined 76 percent said they do, with 21 percent responding “Yes, at all times” and 55 percent responding “Yes, but only when social distancing can’t be maintained or when engaging with human clients.”

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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