Hy-Vee will remain open without requiring shoppers to wear facial coverings, saying it wants to stay inclusive to customers who cannot wear masks for medical reasons.
The West Des Moines-based midwestern supermarket chain’s decision stands against the increasing trend of the nation’s largest retailers adhering to the CDC and National Retail Federation’s recommendations. A report out yesterday found that over half of the country’s forty largest retailers, including many grocery store chains, have implemented facial covering policies for their shoppers.
Currently, only Hy-Vee employees are required to wear masks in stores where there are no state or municipal mandates.
“While our employees are required to wear masks at work, we are not mandating masks for customers, except where ordered by states/local governments,” a Hy-Vee customer service representative said on July 15 in an email to a member of Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School, a Facebook group with over 18 thousand members that has been calling on Hy-Vee’s CEO Randy Edeker to require masks for shoppers.
Hy-Vee vice president of communications Tina Potthoff confirmed to Iowa Starting Line the company’s stance, saying, “It’s very difficult to enforce that without asking people their medical histories. There are many people in the country that cannot wear masks for medical reasons.”
The National Retail Federation has encouraged retailers to set nationwide mask policies, and large national retailers like Walmart, Target, CVS and Walgreens have recently implemented the orders at all their stores, including those in Iowa. Here, Gov. Kim Reynolds has not made any statewide declarations for facial coverings, and has instead prohibited local municipalities from passing their own mask mandates.
Other national grocers like Kroger and Publix announced last week that they would also mandate mask-wearing at their locations. Deep-southern grocer Winn Dixie late on Monday reversed their decision not to require customer masks to avoid “undue friction” between customers and staffers. The company confirmed to USA TODAY that their position evolved after listening to customer feedback.
Instead of the mask policies, the Hy-Vee representative encouraged shoppers to use their online grocery delivery or curbside pickup services for those with safety concerns.
“We strongly recommend use of the Aisles Online delivery and/or curbside pickup service for anyone who might feel unsafe coming into the store, where strict sanitation measures, clear social distancing recommendations and protocols designed to limit the number of shoppers at a given time remain in place,” the email to Iowa Educators for a Safe Return to School said.
The group’s co-founder Jeremy Dumkrieger said he ordinarily uses Hy-Vee’s online grocery option, but on Monday shopped at Walmart when their mask policy went into effect.
“Yesterday I went to Walmart because I wanted watermelon and didn’t want to wait 24 hours for it. We knew that they had their mask policy so we threw on our masks and went in there,” he said. “We’re looking for everyone to just put the mask on when you go in the store. We just want everyone to comply with it so we can get rid of it so we can go back to school and not worry about it and we can just live our lives and go to movies and restaurants.”
by Isabella Murray
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