Business

Here’s How Retail Chains Are Responding To Texas Lifting Its COVID-19 Mask Mandate

Costco, H-E-B, Kroger and Target all provided updates on their policies in the wake of Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision. Buc-ee’s, Randalls and Walmart did not.

H-E-B shoppers loading groceries into a car on 6055 S. Freeway, on Feb. 22, 2021.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced he was lifting a statewide COVID-19 order mandating people wear face coverings inside of businesses across the state of Texas. That means beginning Wednesday, March 10, you may see more maskless people than usual out shopping for groceries and other supplies.

But while some companies have already signaled new policies to allow customers to go without face coverings, others are adhering to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend people wear masks in public and while occupying indoor public spaces.

Here’s a look at how some of the biggest retail businesses in Texas are responding to the change.

Buc-ee’s

A Buc-ee’s spokesperson said the company was crafting a statement in response to the governor’s decision, but did not provide a response as of Wednesday afternoon. This story will be updated if it does.

Costco

A Costco representative said the company will stick with the mask-wearing requirement at its Texas outlets. A November 2020 letter posted by Craig Jelinek, the company’s president and CEO, notes that customers are required to wear masks.

H-E-B

The San Antonio-based supermarket chain said it will require employees to wear masks indoors, and will be asking shoppers to wear them as well — but won’t be requiring face coverings for customers, according to Lisa Helfman, public affairs director with H-E-B Houston.

“Although there is no longer a statewide mask order, H-E-B believes it is important that masks be worn in public spaces until more Texans and our Partners have access to the Covid-19 vaccine,” Helfman wrote in an email. “As an essential service provider during the pandemic, H-E-B is focused on the health and safety of our Partners and customers. H-E-B will still require all our Partners and vendors to wear masks while at work, and we urge all customers to please wear a mask when in our stores.”

Kroger

After a Houston-based spokesperson told Houston Public Media Wednesday morning that the grocery chain would “encourage” all customers to wear masks, the company later reversed course, saying that it would instead mandate face coverings for all shoppers inside Kroger stores across the country.

“To ensure the continued safety of our customers and associates, The Kroger Family of Companies will continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” read a statement from April Martin, a spokesperson for Kroger in Texas. “We also continue to advocate to federal, state and local officials to prioritize frontline grocery workers for the vaccine rollout plan, and we will offer a $100 one-time payment to associates who receive the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Randalls

Randall’s did not respond to requests for comment. This story will be updated if the company responds, but the Houston Chronicle reported that the store will not mandate masks.

Target

Target says it will continue to require masks from employees and customers in all of its stores, with minimal exemptions, according to a statement from Target spokesperson Brian Harper-Tibaldo.

“We require guests to wear masks or face coverings in all of our stores, except for guests with underlying medical conditions and young children,” Harper-Tibaldo said. “We also require all store team members to wear masks at work and have provided them with reusable and disposable masks. Those who have been vaccinated for coronavirus are still required to wear a mask and follow all social distancing guidelines, in line with current CDC guidance.”

Walmart

Walmart did not respond to requests for comment. This story will be updated if the company responds. On its website, an update from July noting a face covering requirement remains unchanged.

Houston Public Media’s Florian Martin and Matt Harab contributed to this report. Additional reporting by Brian Kirkpatrick of Texas Public Radio.

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