Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic to require coronavirus masks for customers

Joins growing list of companies requiring everyone to wear masks in stores

Gap Inc. announced Monday it will require customers to wear masks in its more than 2,500 stores nationwide next month.

Employees at Gap Inc. stores, which include brands like Banana Republic, Old Navy, and Athleta, are already required to wear masks, but customers will now have to wear them as well. Small children and people who can’t wear masks due to underlying conditions are exempted from the policy.

“We’re committed to evolving our health and safety practices and keeping our teams, customers and communities at the core of every decision we make,” the company said in a statement. “Given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the US and Canada, we want to do everything we can to help stop the spread of the virus.”

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Gap Inc. joins a growing list of retailers that now require everyone to wear a mask in their stores. Costco was one of the earliest retail giants to require masks in May, and other companies like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Starbucks, Kohl’s and Home Depot have since implemented similar policies.

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Studies increasingly show that masks are an effective way to contain the spread of coronavirus. A review of 172 studies published in The Lancet last month found that social distancing and masks are the best way to beat the pandemic.

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“For the general public, evidence shows that physical distancing of more than 1 m is highly effective and that face masks are associated with protection, even in non-health-care settings, with either disposable surgical masks or reusable 12–16-layer cotton ones,” the authors of the study wrote.

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Retail companies have been adapting to coronavirus with varying levels of success, as economic shutdowns and social distancing have hammered economies around the world. Reuters reported last month that Gap Inc. had a nearly $1 billion quarterly loss amid the pandemic.

Gap Inc. did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Brooks Brothers, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus and J Crew have all filed for bankruptcy since the coronavirus pandemic began. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Ascena Retail Group, which owns companies like Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant, is preparing to file for bankruptcy soon and close at least 1,200 of its 2,800 stores.

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