Masks or other kinds of face covering were made mandatory in all Walmart locations all across Canada as of Aug. 12. This safety measure is aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
While the initiative was already in place in all American stores since mid-July as well as in many Canadian locations due to regional policies, in Estevan the change caused a controversial reaction.
As soon as the new policies came in place, the talks about the Estevan Walmart being an exception and not making masks mandatory for customers started quickly spreading over social media.
The Mercury reached out to Walmart's corporate affairs manager Felicia Fefer to clarify the situation.
“Safety continues to be Walmart’s number one priority and we will continue to take measures necessary to ensure the well-being of our customers and associates,” said Fefer.
She explained that according to Health Canada if a person wears a mask or other face cover properly they can reduce the spread of thier own infectious respiratory droplets. She also pointed out that over 60 percent of their more than 400 stores are in regions of the country where there is some form of local government mandate on face coverings.
“For this reason, and to help bring more consistency across our store network, starting August 12, 2020, we require all customers and associates working in any Walmart store not already subject to a local government mandate to wear a mask or face covering in areas of our stores accessible to the public,” said Fefer.
This means that there are no exceptions to these policies and masks or face coverings are now mandatory in Walmart in Estevan as well as in every other Walmart in Canada and the U.S.
During the week of Aug. 12-18, the store is providing complimentary disposable masks to customers who didn't bring their own. Walmart acknowledged that it's not possible for everyone to wear a face covering, and the associates are supposed to be trained on those exceptions to help reduce friction and make the process as easy as possible for everyone.
“If a customer does not have a face covering, does not meet one of the exemptions or doesn’t accept a complimentary mask offered between August 12 and 18, they will be prohibited from entering the store,” said Fefer.
After Aug. 18, all people coming into Walmart are expected to bring their own masks or face covering.
“We trust our customers and believe the vast majority will abide by the new policy. We will have an associate at the door who will remind customers about the new policy and take reasonable measures to enforce it,” said Fefer.
And while some people weren’t happy with the latest safety measures implemented by the Walmart head office, many others accepted and even supported the initiative. The local store manager said that they are really grateful to the Estevan community for being receptive to the current changes and noted that during the first several days they didn’t have any problems with customers, who all were following the new rules.
The latest corporate mandate became an addition to other safety protocols aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 that Walmart was taking at its locations since the beginning of the pandemic. The other measures include enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures, limiting the number of customers, staff health screening and control over people flows inside the store.