- Kroger is once again requiring all workers and contractors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks while in the company’s stores, corporate offices and other facilities, a company spokesperson wrote in an email.
- With this move, the grocer is returning to a policy it had in place until May, when it began requiring only unvaccinated employees to mask up. Customers are not required to wear masks, but Kroger strongly recommends they do so.
- Kroger is tightening its mask requirements as the delta variant continues to spread across the U.S.
Kroger updated its mask policy based on guidance from its Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Watkins and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by listening to its employees and customers, a company spokesperson said on Thursday.
The move, which took effect last week according to local reports, follows reports from the CDC noting the highly contagious nature of the delta variant and the fact that vaccinated people are able to spread it. According to the CDC's COVID-19 database, the seven-day average of cases has increased approximately tenfold since the beginning of July.
Last year, Kroger began requiring all workers and customers to wear masks while in stores and other company facilities. In May, the company eased its policy, saying it would only require workers who were unvaccinated to wear masks. In July, the grocer began strongly encouraging shoppers and employees to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status.
“We continue to strongly encourage customers to wear masks to protect themselves and others, and to curb the spread of COVID-19. Where there are local and state mandates, we will continue to abide by those," the company noted in its statement.
Other retailers have stepped up their masking requirements for workers in recent months, but in most cases have stopped short of issuing company-wide requirements. In early August, Walmart announced it would require workers to wear masks in its stores, Sam's Club membership warehouses, distribution centers and fulfillment centers in counties classified by the federal government as having "substantial" or "high" rates of COVID-19 transmission. Target rolled out a similar provision around the same time.
Amazon requires workers in all of its warehouses to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status. Whole Foods Market's store workers who are unvaccinated or who work in areas deemed by the CDC to have “substantial” or “high” transmission rates have to mask up, according to the company’s website.
Kroger, which employs 465,000 workers, is also encouraging associates to get vaccinated, and currently offers a $100 incentive for those that do. The company launched a $5 million giveaway promotion for vaccinated shoppers earlier this summer and has so far given out more than 6.7 million vaccines at its stores and pharmacies.