National Chains Seek State-Enforced Facemask Mandate for Stores

By Alan Wolf, YSN

A trade group representing the nation’s largest retailers has asked the governors of all 50 states to make the wearing of facemasks mandatory within stores and to take responsibility for enforcement.

The request was made by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), a Washington, D.C.-based industry organization led by Best Buy, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, Target, Walgreens and other national chains.

In an open letter to the National Governors Association, RILA president Brian Dodge argued that face coverings have proven themselves indispensable in controlling the outbreak of COVID-19, and that retailers have born the brunt of providing masks to employees and patrons, and of encouraging customers to wear them.

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However, given the absence of a consistent national policy, and the politicization of wearing facemasks in public, retail workers have been threatened and assaulted by angry consumers, and stores are open to fines for customer non-compliance, he wrote.

“Retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence front-line employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties,” he related. “We respectfully ask that those governors that haven’t yet required masks in public to do so immediately … [and] strongly recommend store employees not be charged with primary enforcement of mask mandates.”

The letter, posted here, was sent to Governors Larry Hogan of Maryland and Andrew Cuomo of New York, who respectively serve as the Chair and Vice Chair of the National Governors Association. It coincides with an eruption of COVID-19 cases across the South and Southwest, prompting Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner to declare that the outbreak in his city and the state of Texas “is out of control.”

In his plea to governors, the RILA president blamed conflicting orders and guidelines from counties and municipalities for creating confusion for employees and customers that ultimately leads to conflict. “Wearing a mask is not about fear, and it certainly should not reflect one’s politics,” he wrote. “Wearing a mask is about respecting others and preventing the spread of a deadly disease. This should no longer be up for debate.”