Walmart made additional safety changes at its stores last week following a state Department of Health emergency rule amending Public Health Law to allow for civil penalties on individuals and business owners that fail to comply with requirements that include wearing masks in public.
Walmart Senior Manager of Corporate Communications Rebecca Thomason sent a statement Monday by the company that said, “Our COVID-19 protocols have continued to adapt during the pandemic in response to evolving research and mandates spanning the country. Additional safety changes took effect July 9 (Thursday) to expand our efforts in reminding customers of the importance and necessity of wearing face coverings in our stores.”
At its Geneseo, Batavia and Warsaw stores, Walmart has repurposed its third-party security resources to assist in reminding customers to wear masks. It has limited the stores to one entrance to help in mask compliance. Management at each store is working with local law enforcement to understand how best to partner with it on any concerns that arise as a result of the state face-covering mandate.
There is no set timeline to remove any COVID-19 protocols, though Walmart is always evaluating policies to make sure they are in line with or exceed best safety practices per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and medical experts.
Regarding Walmart handing out masks to customers who come to the Batavia, Geneseo and Warsaw stores without them, that is reportedly handled on a store-by-store basis. If a person says he or she is not wearing a mask for medical reasons the person should not be pressed for additional details, according to Walmart.
Walmart did not say what complaints, if any, it has received from customers who have tried to enter the Walmart stores in Geneseo, Warsaw or Batavia, or how many complaints it has gotten from customers who cite medical conditions as the reason they can’t wear masks.
No managers at the Walmart stores in Geneseo, Batavia and Warsaw could be reached for comment Monday.
The state health Department Thursday said, “Business operators and building owners, and those authorized on their behalf shall deny admittance to any person who fails to comply with this section (requiring face-coverings) and shall require or compel such person’s removal.”
The rule requires face coverings to be worn by all persons older than 2 years old and able to medically tolerate a face-covering in public places when social distancing cannot or is not maintained, and on for-hire public or private transportation. It requires that the regulation be applied in a manner consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, New York State or New York City Human Rights Law, and “any other applicable provision of law.”
The rule says that any individual violating any provision of the rule is subject to civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation. When businesses are subject to the statue’s civil penalties, they could be fined up to $2,000 per day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Cloth face coverings are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with every day preventive actions and social distancing in public settings. Those who should not use face coverings, the CDC said in information posted July 6 to its website, include children under age 2, or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or N95 respirators. Currently, surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.