Grocery chain Winn-Dixie will require customers to wear face masks while shopping at its stores beginning July 27 amid a surge of coronavirus cases across the country, parent company Southeastern Grocers said Monday.
Winn-Dixie operates roughly 500 grocery store locations across five Southeastern states – Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. Southeastern Grocers drew a mixed reaction after it initially said it would not mandate masks in stores because they are a source of conflict between customers and employees.
“The majority of our stores are under either a local or state government mandate, and given the continued rise of positive COVID cases in our communities across the Southeast, beginning Monday, July 27, we will be requiring masks to be worn by customers to help reduce the spread of the disease,” said Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications and government affairs for Southeastern Grocers. “Our communities count on us, and we are counting on our customers to show kindness as we go through these challenging times together.”
The Winn-Dixie parent joined a number of national retailers that have issued mandatory face mask policies for shoppers in recent days. Walmart, Whole Foods, Publix, Starbucks and Costco are among the companies requiring customers to wear masks.
Southeastern Grocers operates Winn-Dixie and three other brands with stores in seven states. The mask mandate applies to all of its stores.
“We believe that the enforcement should be placed upon our state and federally elected officials, and we will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates,” the company added.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Winn-Dixie would not mandate face masks. In its initial statement on that decision, Southeastern Grocers said it did not want to “put our associates in a position to navigate interpersonal conflict or prohibit customers from shopping in our stores.”
Winn-Dixie has taken other precautions during the pandemic, including the installation of plexiglass partitions at cash registers and daily temperature checks for employees.
Public health experts have called for months for the public to wear face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19.