Mask Meltdown: Some Iowans Rebel Over Walmart Mandate

Walmart’s newly-implemented mask requirement policy has stirred outrage, especially among rural Iowans, even as the state’s coronavirus cases creep back up to the peaks it hit in May.

America’s largest retailer on Monday began enforcing a mandate which requires all customers to wear face coverings at all their locations and Sam’s Club stores as COVID cases climb without national or statewide mask policies. The CDC has encouraged Americans to wear masks while out in public, pointing to studies that show them greatly reducing the spread of the virus.

But as the country’s polarized politics have surrounded the pandemic, many conservative Iowans are unhappy. A staple for many in rural parts of the state, Walmart is facing criticism from a number of residents—especially over social media—who have said the policy may deter them from shopping at their 60 Iowa locations.

“I am very frustrated with the fact that we are being forced to wear a mask,” said Dustin Ter Horst from Ireton, Iowa—a town of about 600 in Sioux County. “I look at it like saying that anyone that wears a mask is not allowed at my place of business. That would be considered discrimination, but somehow when it is flipped around and we have to wear them or are not allowed in the door, it changes how people feel.”

According to a blog post from the retailer, the face coverings will be enforced by stationed “health ambassadors” near the entrance to remind shoppers of the requirement—Walmart now joins Target, Dollar Tree and a number of other businesses implementing mask policies.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, along with President Donald Trump and many of the state’s counties have said facial covering requirements are up to the discretion of individuals or businesses. One of Iowa’s major grocers, Hy-Vee, currently does not require customers to wear masks despite calls from groups in the state including an organization of educators.

Walmart announced the news on Wednesday to allow for stores to adjust to the requirement. Social media pages for some rural Iowa residents promptly began to implode with the news.

“When the Walmart thing came out, you should have seen social media,” said Julie Goepfert, the Webster County Democrats chair. “You have to almost force me to go to that store right now. There are so many people who do not wear masks there.”

Nikki Shada, a daycare owner from Cedar Rapids said she doesn’t mind if others wear masks, she is just opposed to the required face coverings.

“I feel that if you want to wear a mask, you can. But you shouldn’t be required to, nor should you be shamed for not wearing one,” she said.

Shada said she will avoid shopping at Walmart in-person so she doesn’t have to adhere to the new requirement.

“Since all the stores around me are [requiring masks], I feel like I don’t have a choice if I need to go to the store. But I had Walmart deliver my groceries today and I’m going to try to stay that route if I can,” Shada said.

Ter Horst, who owns an agricultural machinery repair business, said he too will avoid shopping at Walmart or Sam’s Club because of the mask policies—he also will not eat at restaurants that require masks.

“It will certainly deter me from shopping there any more than getting the items I cannot buy at the local grocery store,” he said. “I have the same feeling regarding eating out at a restaurant, if the restaurant allows to seat you inside and eat as usual, I will eat there. Places that are still carry-out or drive-through only won’t get my business. We are allowed these freedoms and some places are restricting them. Really frustrates me.”

Emily Kelzer from Sheldon said she doesn’t see the necessity in wearing facial coverings as COVID cases continue to rise.

“I think it is too late in the game for it. When people are continuing to wear the mask incorrectly anyhow, it doesn’t make a bit of difference,” she said. “I will not shop at any store that would enforce the face mask.”

 

by Isabella Murray
Posted 7/20/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage

11 Comments on "Mask Meltdown: Some Iowans Rebel Over Walmart Mandate"

  • I agree with Zook because if these people stay out of circulation the rest of us will be better off . Also not registering with them mentally is the fact that they may very well be saving their own lives ! But then you can’t argue with stupid people they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience !!!!!!!!

  • I was in a Walmart yesterday and an individual came in without a mask with his wife who had a mask. He was stopped and told that he could go in provided he took a mask from the box just inside the doors that was provided for those that had not yet heard of the new mask policy that started yesterday. I followed them in, the individual looked at the box, picked up a mask (these masks were individually wrapped) then dropped it back into the box and went in anyway without a mask. If Walmart is not going to enforce it at all their stores then what is the use in making it mandatory. By placing the free mask box outside of the control of the Health Ambassadors at the entrance and trusting people to do the right thing and take a free single-use mask out of the box negates any efforts of Walmart to make this Mandatory. I agree with the above comments, but if it is not properly enforce then what is the use in requiring it?

  • It’s sad for me because I can’t wear a mask due to a health condition. I started out wearing one and want to comply but my doctor says it is too risky for me. Now people judge me because I have to go into stores without a mask and it is very embarrassing. I do get people to get me stuff but not always when I’m in need of it and my Walmart does not have delivery or curbside service all I’m asking is take into consideration those of us who want to comply but cannot before you make all the mean comments. I know there are a lot of people cheating the system, but some of us are really trying to just get some groceries and get out fast and I’m just tired of the judgement. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes please. Thanks.

  • To April: I understand that there are Medical reasons for some people not to wear a mask. However, can you wear a face shield? The primary goal is to reduce spittle from your mouth and droplets from your nasal cavities from projecting out as an aerosol for up to 6 to 10 feet. Any interruption in that outward flow reduces the spread, If you cannot wear a mask due to health and/or medical issues you should be able to at least wear a face shield to interrupt the outward flow being ejected from your mouth and nose. The face shield would allow you to breathe normally while also protecting you from the additional possibility of being infected through your eye membranes as well.

  • I worked in the medical field for years and cannot think of any medical reason for someone not to wear a mask.

  • I have COPD and wear a mask. It saves lives and the one could even be your own. No, it’s not comfortable but then it isn’t about comfort but safety. Funny, the people decrying their rights being violated cheer as trump sends in federal troops to arrest without due process citizens protesting peacefully.

  • Way too many temper tantrums over “masks or no masks”. WalMart has the right to require masks in their stores, which are private property. Same goes for HyVee which has the right not to require masks. I’m comfortable with both decisions and yes I’m high risk and I always wear a mask.

  • Will I know now what it feels like to be discriminated again buy a business store meaning Menards in Burlington Iowa by one of their employees I have a medical condition it’s a pulmonary condition of a scarred lung and I cannot wear mask without causing me to get enough oxygen I know it’s against OSHA’s rules or regulations for them to enforce someone in a place of business without enough oxygen to breathe I was told that I could not come in the store without a mask I told them I had a pulmonary lung problem they didn’t want to hear about that they said if you don’t wear a mask you cannot come in then when I spoke my opinion I was laughed at by an employee I think this is discrimination of the highest I wish I knew what I could do to put a lawsuit against them because if I did I would any attorneys seeing this please reply to me please

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