- Texas and Mississippi governors announced mask mandates will be lifted.
- Retail trade group RILA opposes the moves and calls it a “premature victory celebration.”
- Retail workers have had to enforce mask rules and risk dangerous confrontations in the last year.
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott just announced the lifting of the state’s mask mandate by an executive order effective on March 10. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also announced that state mask mandates would be lifted and businesses would be allowed to operate at full capacity beginning March 3. The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has already opposed the move, Nathaniel Meyersohn at CNN reported.
RILA counts as members some of the biggest retailers in the country, including Target, Walmart, Lowes, Walgreens, and Dollar General.
“Relaxing common-sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake. We are certainly supportive of governors re-opening their economies and giving beleaguered restaurants and other small businesses the opportunity to rebuild and rehire workers,” RILA Executive Vice President of Communications and State Affairs Jason Brewer told Insider in an email. “But going backwards on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates. It could also jeopardize the safety of pharmacies and grocers that are gearing up as vaccination centers.”
Several RILA members are also vaccine distribution sites, including CVS and Wegmans.
“Tremendous strides have been made in recent weeks lowering the rate of COVID-19 infections and vaccinating seniors and other vulnerable populations. We should not jeopardize this progress with a premature victory celebration,” Brewer said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, US retail workers have been tasked with the job of enforcing mask policies. Employees were left in the difficult position of not having official mask policies, or not being allowed to ask customers to mask up.
Some customers have refused to wear masks for political reasons, and encounters have even turned violent, with workers shot or assaulted for asking customers to wear masks. Of stores that did not let employees enforce mask rules, spokespeople cited concerns for employee safety.
Texas has the most COVID-19 hotspots of any US state, with 10 counties reporting more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. Infection rate counts were artificially low in late February when a severe storm overtook much of the state, but numbers are starting to rebound.