Policies & Issues

Retailers Need Clarity on Updated Mask Guidance, Says NRF

Policies & IssuesMay 20, 2021

Retailers Need Clarity on Updated Mask Guidance, Says NRF

Differing guidance on the federal, state, and local levels is causing confusion for retailers and customers.

The CDC announced last week fully vaccinated individuals could resume most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask. Retailers are calling for more clarity on the state and local level.
Washington—Retailers are looking to government officials for clarity following the recent mask guidance updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last Thursday, the CDC announced fully vaccinated individuals could resume most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask.

With no easy way to tell who is and isn’t vaccinated, the updated guidance may prove difficult for retailers.

The National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association sent a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, chairman of the National Governors Association, and Mayor Greg Fischer, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to explain the growing complexity of the situation and ask for assistance.

The guidance from the CDC is not law itself, but it influences lawmakers’ decisions on the federal, state, and local level.

When the guidance on each level differs, it can complicate the situation for retailers, employees, and consumers.

“As state and local officials consider the evolving federal guidance on masks, we urge thoughtful consideration related to the practicality of state and local orders,” said the letter.

The trade organizations are wary the onus will fall on retail employees to serve as “de facto law enforcement” related to the mask guidance.

The letter noted that given the risk of confrontation with customers who refuse masks, some retailers have offered de-escalation training to help employees manage conflicts and have also hired third-party security guards to handle those situations.

“Our recommendation is to permit state and local orders to track CDC guidance closely, allowing retailers to make national policy decisions that reflect the most current scientific advice.

“If localities choose to keep mask requirements in place for unvaccinated Americans, administration of these requirements must not be placed on retail employees.”

Several major retailers have lifted the mask mandate for fully vaccinated customers, including Walmart, Target, Costco, and Starbucks.

For more information about current health and safety guidance, visit the CDC website.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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