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Retailers loosen mask restrictions

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After the CDC changed its guidelines on mask-wearing, some stores have decided to follow their lead by lifting their mask requirements. Julie Hyman, Myles Udland, and Brian Sozzi talk about how retailers plan to move forward in a post-pandemic America.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, with the change in mask guidance that the CDC came out with on Friday, a lot of retailers are now saying if you're vaccinated, you do not have to wear a mask inside the store. I believe Target and Starbucks are the latest to make those announcements.

Brian Sozzi, you've been keeping track of these. I mean, it's a little tough, though, because how do you know-- I mean, you're trusting that people are vaccinated, basically, if they're not wearing a mask.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, you don't know. But Target out this morning, following a lot of other retailers that started announcing this last week, saying you can walk in their stores without a mask. And last week, this comes on the heels of a Costco coming out here, in many respects leading the pack here, saying you could walk into Costco and buy your bulk goods without wearing a mask.

Walmart, who usually is the first retailer to announce big measures. I remember when they came out a couple years ago and they said they were raising wages, everybody followed. Walmart, usually the leader in this stuff. Nonetheless, they are saying you can go in in their stores without a mask. They're also giving associates a $75 bonus, US field associates, a $75 bonus if they in fact get vaccinated.

Again, this also extends to, as you mentioned, Julie, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, as well, saying you don't need a mask to go into their stores. Interestingly, they had a post about this, Trader Joe's, on their website. They pulled that down, also pulled down the Tweet. Strange.

But nonetheless, it's going to be an interesting summer where you're probably going to be walking around stores, some people wearing a mask, some people not. And perhaps strong opinions being shared out there on social media inside, from inside these stores. Will be a very interesting time.

MYLES UDLAND: You know, I think it's interesting just to see where corporate America's role has gone on this. And look, these are companies, right? The government is there to lead policy making decisions, but that's been a fraught endeavor since before the pandemic was even a pandemic, right, corporate America has been-- a lot of the leadership on this front. And I think basically what I'm seeing these announcements reflecting is everyone who wants to get a vaccine in this country can go get one tomorrow.

In about four weeks from now, I would say, everyone who wants to have gotten a vaccine will have already received the vaccine. And Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, these companies have decided, we're not going to make our employees the arbiters of mask rules anymore, right? The safety is part-- like, that comes from the CDC, to keep Americans safe and tell them what they should and should not be doing, how they should and should not be conducting themselves.

There will be local measures that all of these rules are, if local measures allow. Certainly in this part of the country, Tri-State area, there doesn't seem to be a lot of movement on loosening any mask rules inside of a place, like a Target, like a Starbucks, like a restaurant if you're not seated. But I mean, I could see that stuff kind of coming off by June and July.

And again, these are companies that have had thousands, tens of thousands of associates effectively serve as the actual public health officials on the ground, in their communities, telling customers, you have to wear a mask in here. And that has been a taxing, exhausting, unfair, frankly, position for these folks to be in. And I think these businesses have had enough of putting their associates in that kind of position.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, at the same time, there was a lot of concern early on in the pandemic on the part of some of these employees that their employers were not doing enough to keep them safe. So I think the fact that now these various retailers are loosening these rules reflects two things, what you were just talking about, that they don't want to be the arbiters anymore.

But it also reflects perhaps that the employees do now feel safe enough in this job environment. And as we keep talking about, it's a difficult job environment for employers to find people. So if they're willing to make this move, I think we have to assume that employees are on board. Because if they weren't, they would walk and go somewhere else. We see that in the wage pressures. We see that in the discussions we've had about the pressure on these employers to provide more consistency in scheduling, for example.

So I think that this also reflects the fact that these employees, at least the majority of them, don't want to have to tell people to mask up anymore, and also, hopefully, are vaccinated and safer themselves.