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Macy’s, Target, and Kohl’s are among the companies keeping their mask requirements in Texas and Mississippi

Phil Wahba
·2 min read

The governors of Texas and Mississippi may have announced the end of COVID-19 restrictions and mask requirements this week. But many large employers, including major big-box retailers, are sticking to their mask-wearing policies.

Macy's, [hotlink]Target[/hotlink], and [hotlink]Kohl's[/hotlink] were among the companies to say they will continue to have employees wear masks at work to protect themselves and customers against the spread of the virus.

"We will continue to follow CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines as it relates to COVID-19," a Kohl's spokeswoman told Fortune. [hotlink]Macy's[/hotlink] also said there is no change in its policies. Target, which requires customers to wear masks too, is also keeping its policies intact.

Private companies are free to impose such restrictions regardless of the status of any state mandate.

"It is now time to open Texas 100%," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Tuesday. But he warned residents to continue to exercise caution. "Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility."

Abbott cited progress in the pace of vaccinations, the emergence of more therapeutic drugs, and falling infection rates. He also said, however, that if COVID-19 hospitalizations reach over 15% of hospital-bed capacity in a given region in Texas, then a local judge in that region could revive the mask mandate.

The mask-wearing mandate, long controversial in Texas, will end March 10, despite warnings from federal health officials against relaxing restrictions. Mississippi also lifted its restrictions on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, President Biden, without naming anyone, lamented "Neanderthal thinking" as he criticized the premature easing of restrictions.

Other companies to have said they will continue to require employees in Texas to wear masks while on the job include carmakers General Motors and Toyota, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Grocery giant [hotlink]Kroger[/hotlink] told Insider it will require masks for customers and employees "until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

While new cases and deaths have plunged in recent weeks, companies, particularly retailers, can ill afford another outbreak. In the past week, Macy's, Kohl's, and [hotlink]Nordstrom[/hotlink] have given upbeat sales forecasts predicated on the virus coming under control, allowing more normal shopping patterns to return. Earlier this week, President Biden said there would be enough supply by May to provide vaccinations for all Americans who want one.

But as previous outbreaks have shown, cases can rise rapidly if people stop taking precautions. For the retailers, there is the additional consideration that their workers could face vitriol from customers who don't want to wear masks, and who mistakenly believe the end of a governor's mandate supersedes the stores' policies. As Bloomberg reported this week, there has been a spate of violent attacks on security guards who have tried to enforce mask-wearing rules.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com