Retail group slams Texas and Mississippi for lifting mask warrants, saying it puts workers at risk


Marie Meisenzahl

Joanne Millar, manager of the Joules store in Belfast, places a sign in the window advising customers that masks must be worn at all times, as face coverings are now mandatory for shoppers. Liam McBurney / PA Images via Getty Images

  • The governors of Texas and Mississippi announced that the mask warrants would be lifted.

  • The RILA retail group opposes the measures and calls them “a celebration of untimely victory”.

  • Retail workers have had to enforce mask rules and risk dangerous confrontations over the past year.

  • Visit Insider’s Business section for more stories.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has just announced the lifting of the state’s mask mandate by executive order effective March 10. Tate Reeves, Governor of Mississippi also announced that state mask warrants would be lifted and businesses would be allowed to operate at full capacity from March 3. The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has already opposed this decision, Nathaniel Meyersohn at CNN reported.

RILA counts among its members some of the largest retailers in the country, including Target, Walmart, Lowes, Walgreens, and Dollar General.

“Relaxing common sense safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake. We certainly support governors who reopen their economies and give besieged restaurants and other small businesses the opportunity to rebuild and rehire workers, ”said Jason Brewer, executive vice president of communications and state affairs at RILA, in Insider in an email. “But going back on safety measures will unfairly put retail workers back into the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates.” It could also jeopardize the safety of pharmacies and grocery stores that are preparing to become vaccination centers. “

Several RILA members are also vaccine distribution sites, including CVS and Wegmans.

“Huge progress has been made in recent weeks to reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections and immunize the elderly and other vulnerable populations. We shouldn’t compromise this progress with an untimely celebration of victory, ”Brewer said.

Since the start of the pandemic, retail workers in the United States have been tasked with enforcing mask policies. Employees found themselves in the difficult position of not having formal mask policies or not being allowed to ask customers to mask themselves.

Some clients have refused to wear masks for political reasons, and encounters have even turned violent, with workers shot or assaulted for asking clients to wear masks. Among stores that have not let employees enforce mask rules, spokespersons have raised concerns about employee safety.

Texas has the most COVID-19 hotspots of any U.S. state, with 10 counties reporting more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. The number of infection rates was artificially low in late February when a severe storm hit much of the state, but the numbers are starting to rebound.


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