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Walmart now requires 1.5 million employees to wear face masks

Lifelines in the Lockdown

Starting Monday, wearing a face mask is now part of the job for Walmart and Sam's Club workers. The nation's largest retailer is changing its policy on face coverings from optional to mandatory given the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation that people wear masks in public places to help curb the spread of COVID-19, company executives stated in a Friday memo to workers.

Although most state and local governments do not require masks, it is in "everyone's best interest to use masks or face coverings" Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner and Sam's Club CEO Kath McLay jointly wrote in the memo, citing the CDC recommendation. The mandate involves workers at stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers, as well as Walmart's corporate offices, they explained. Employees can bring their own face covering or use a company-provided mask.

Company executives had previously said that Walmart would start checking workers' temperatures and make masks and gloves available. The retailer is also encouraging shoppers to wear masks or face coverings to help protect workers and other customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Walmart faces wrongful death lawsuit over employee's COVID death

In another move to help contain the contagious disease, Walmart is extending its emergency leave policy through the end of May. The company is offering workers with a confirmed case of the virus, or those who are required to be in quarantine, two weeks paid time off. 

The change comes as Walmart and other companies confront a public health crisis that has increased consumer demand for groceries, with packed aisles putting workers and shoppers at risk. Indeed, the retailer is being sued by the family of a Walmart worker in Illinois who died of complications from COVID-19 in late March. 

The spike in shoppers in-store and online also has Walmart looking to hire another 50,000 employees after hiring 150,000 in the past month, said the company, which operates more than 5,350 Walmart and Sam's Club stores throughout the U.S.

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