Skip to content
 

Walmart, Costco Drop Mask Rules for Vaccinated Shoppers

Target and CVS also revise face-covering policies to match new CDC guidance

Man shopping at store

Getty Images

En español | Some of the nation’s largest retail chains are revisiting their mask policies in the wake of new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Walmart, Costco, CVS, Target and Kohl's are among companies now allowing fully vaccinated customers to shop mask-free, in accordance with the federal guidelines, as long as doing so does not violate state or local face-covering mandates.

According to the CDC, people are fully vaccinated when they are two weeks past receiving their second Pfizer or Moderna dose or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The 10 largest retailers in the U.S. and most of the top 40, as ranked by the National Retail Federation (NRF) based on sales, implemented mask mandates in the spring and summer of 2020. Here’s a list of biggest retail companies that have been requiring some or all patrons to wear face coverings. In most cases the store numbers below are from the NRF, as of 2019.

(Editor’s note: This list is limited to retailers in the NRF’s top 40. Many smaller chains also require masks in their stores. If you have questions about mask policies at a company not listed here, check its website or contact its corporate office).


For the latest coronavirus news and advice go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


Walmart

NRF rank: 1

U.S. stores: 5,355 (including Sam's Club)

The nation’s biggest retailer notified employees in a May 14 memo that fully vaccinated customers are no longer required to wear masks in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, and that inoculated staffers can go mask-free starting May 18. “We will continue to request that non-vaccinated customers and members wear face coverings in our stores and clubs,” the company said. Walmart triggered a wave of retailers implementing mask rules when it did so last July.

Amazon

NRF rank: 2

U.S. stores: 564

The e-commerce giant instituted a mask requirement on July 20 at its Whole Foods Market supermarkets and Amazon Books, Amazon 4-Star and other branded brick-and-mortar outlets.

Kroger

NRF rank: 3

U.S. stores: 3,003

The country's largest supermarket chain has required masks at all locations since July 22. In its COVID-19 FAQs, the company asks that customers unable to wear a mask or face shield “use our e-commerce services like pickup or delivery."

Costco

NRF rank: 4

U.S. stores: 542

A year after becoming the first major national retailer to institute a mask rule, the members-only warehouse club revised the policy May 14, allowing fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in stores. “We will not require proof of vaccination, but we ask for members’ responsible and respectful cooperation with this revised policy,” the company said. Face coverings continue to be required in health care areas of Costco stores, such as pharmacies and optical centers.

Walgreens

NRF rank: 5

U.S. stores: 9,168

The nation's biggest drugstore chain instituted a mask mandate July 20. The company's COVID-19 FAQs state that store management “may gently remind customers who are shopping without masks about the requirement, but out of concern for our employees’ safety, we do not stop these customers from shopping."

Home Depot

NRF rank: 6

U.S. stores: 1,973

An April 2 update on the home-improvement giant's COVID-19 response reiterated that staff and customers are required to “wear non-medical face masks in stores,” as they have been since July 22, and that face coverings will be provided to them if necessary.

CVS

NRF rank: 7

U.S. stores: 9,909

The drugstore chain announced May 17 that it would no longer require masks for fully vaccinated patrons. “Customers who are not fully vaccinated are asked to continue wearing face coverings, and employees are required to do so while at work,” the company said.

Target

NRF rank: 8

U.S. stores: 1,868

“Given the CDC’s updated guidance, Target no longer requires fully vaccinated guests and team members to wear face coverings in our stores, except where it’s required by local ordinances,” the company says on its coronavirus response page. “Face coverings continue to be strongly recommended for guests and team members who are not fully vaccinated.”

Lowe's

NRF rank: 9

U.S. stores: 1,727

The home improvement chain's mask mandate took effect July 20. “We will offer face masks at the customer service desk of every store for customers who need them, while supplies last,” the company says on its COVID-19 response page.

Albertsons

NRF rank: 10

U.S. stores: 2,258

The parent company of Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco and other grocery chains implemented a mask rule across all its properties July 21. When Texas lifted its state mask mandate in March, the company said the requirement would stay in place in its stores there, stating that it would “continue to look to the CDC's recommendations to determine our safety practices."

Apple Store

NRF rank: 11

U.S. stores: 271

The tech retailer has retained the mask mandate it instituted May 17 as it reopened retail outlets after the initial pandemic lockdown. 

McDonald's

NRF rank: 13

U.S. stores: 13,846

McDonald has required customers “to wear face coverings when entering our U.S. restaurants” since Aug. 1 and is keeping the policy in place even where state and local governments have dropped mask orders.

Best Buy

NRF rank: 14

U.S. stores: 995

"Customers and employees are required to wear a face covering. We will supply a face covering if you don't have one,” the electronics retailer states in an online rundown of its in-store safety measures. The mandate has been in place since July 15.

Publix

NRF rank: 15

U.S. stores: 1,479

The supermarket chain announced May 14 that it “will no longer require fully vaccinated associates or customers to wear face coverings, unless required by a state or local order or ordinance.”

TJX Companies

NRF rank: 16

U.S. stores: 3,247

TJX is the parent of T.J.Maxx and Marshalls, as well as outdoor store Sierra and home furnishings chain HomeGoods. Identical customer information pages on each brand's website state, “In all of our U.S. stores, customers are required to wear face coverings.” The mandate was implemented on July 30.

Aldi

NRF rank: 17

U.S. stores: 2,586

"Customers and employees are required to wear properly fitting face coverings,” the discount grocery chain says in an updated web page on current safety measures at its stores. The mask policy has been in effect since July 27.

Dollar General

NRF rank: 18

U.S. stores: 16,368

The discount chain requires masking at all its stores, distribution centers and corporate offices. The company put the policy in place in August and reiterated it in a March 10 update on its COVID-19 response.

H-E-B

NRF rank: 19

U.S. stores: 333

The Texas grocery chain affirmed in a statement issued March 5, five days before its home state's mask mandate ended, that it would continue to require face covering in its stores. “H-E-B has always been a strong proponent and advocate of mask use even before mandates and orders were passed,” the company said.

Macy's

NRF rank: 20

U.S. stores: 780

Macy's shoppers are “to wear masks at all times” in stores, according to the company's COVID-19 response page. The mask rule has been in place since July 22, but the department store chain has said it is not requiring employees to enforce the policy.

Dollar Tree

NRF rank: 21

U.S. stores: 15,059

The discount retailer, which also operates the Family Dollar chain, requires on its coronavirus response page that “all Associates, customers and vendors to wear face coverings when inside our stores.” The mask policy has been in place since August.

Verizon

NRF rank: 22

U.S. stores: 1,600-plus

"Face coverings must be worn by customers and staff” at Verizon's retail locations, according to the company's web page on store operations.

Kohl's

NRF rank: 24

U.S. stores: 1,171

The department store revised its policy May 17, announcing that “fully vaccinated customers are welcome to shop with or without a mask. We will continue to strongly recommend that non-vaccinated customers and associates wear masks in our stores.”

Starbucks

NRF rank: 26

U.S. stores: 15,041

As of May 17, “facial coverings will be optional for vaccinated customers” unless local regulations mandate masks, the coffee giant says on its updated COVID-19 response page. Store staffers are still required to mask up.


Meijer

NRF rank: 28

U.S. stores: 247

The Midwestern superstore requires masks for shoppers as well as staff and vendors at its locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

Wakefern (ShopRite)

NRF rank: 29

U.S. stores: 352

The corporate parent of northeastern supermarket ShopRite as well as smaller grocery chains Price Rite and The Fresh Grocer requires “that all customers wear a face covering while shopping,” according to its FAQs on customer and employee safety, which also notes that the states in which Wakefern chains operate currently have mask mandates.

Ross

NRF rank: 30

U.S. stores: 1,805

The off-price department store started “requiring all customers and associates to wear a face covering” on Aug. 3 and continues to do so, according to its store safety guidelines.

AT&T

NRF rank: 31

U.S. stores: 2,200

"Masks are required to be worn by employees, customers and visitors in our stores and will be provided to customers who need them,” the telecommunications company says in the consumers section of its COVID-19 response page.

Rite Aid

NRF rank: 32

U.S. stores: 2,461

The pharmacy chain “requires customers to wear face coverings in all locations,” according to its store safety page. The company said in announcing the policy in July that it will provide free face coverings for customers but staff “will not be asked to enforce requirements."

Nordstrom

NRF rank: 33

U.S. stores: 368

“We’re taking some time to evaluate the new CDC mask guidelines and what it may mean for our employees and customers,” the department store chain said in a May 14 statement on its COVID-19 response page. “In the meantime, we will ask our employees and customers to continue to wear masks.”

Gap

NRF rank: 34

U.S. stores: 2,337

The apparel company has required shoppers to mask up in all its North American stores, including Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Intermix, Athleta, and Janie and Jack, since Aug. 1.

BJ's Wholesale

NRF rank: 35

U.S. stores: 218

The membership warehouse club lifted storewide mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers May 15 and will do so for inoculated store employees May 18, according to the company’s coronavirus FAQs. Masks are still mandated for all shoppers and staff in BJ’s optical departments.

Alimentation Couche-Tard (Circle K)

NRF rank: 36

U.S. stores: 6,977

Couche-Tard, a Canadian convenience store company, owns the U.S.-based Circle K chain, which instituted a mask requirement on July 20. The company's CEO said in a Feb. 24 message to customers that it remains strict about “asking everyone to wear a mask” and maintaining other safety procedures.

Menards

NRF rank: 37

U.S. stores: 312

The Midwestern home-improvement chain is “requiring all Guests and Team Members to wear masks when shopping at all store locations,” according to its COVID-19 policy page.

PetSmart

NRF rank: 39

U.S. stores: 1,522

The pet-supply chain reiterated its mask rule in a March update on its COVID-19 response, saying, “While some states have relaxed their face covering guidelines, we stand with our fellow members of the retail industry and will continue to follow CDC guidelines.”

Bed Bath & Beyond

NRF rank: 40

U.S. stores: 1,423

Since July 24, the home goods chain's store safety plan has included mandatory face covering for customers and staff.

Andy Markowitz is a contributing writer and editor for AARP, covering Social Security and fraud. He is a former editor of The Prague Post and Baltimore City Paper.

More on Masks

Join the Discussion

0 %{widget}% | Add Yours

You must be logged in to leave a comment.