Target, CVS join chains making masks optional for fully vaccinated shoppers

File photo (Victoria Jones)

Target, CVS, Winn-Dixie, Publix, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart and Starbucks have all announced they’re dropping their requirements that fully vaccinated customers wear face coverings in their stories, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued Thursday.

In a news release, Publix announced it will apply the same guidelines to its employees.

“As a result of the recently updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, Publix will no longer require fully vaccinated associates or customers to wear face coverings, unless required by a state or local order or ordinance, beginning May 15.

“In accordance with CDC guidelines, individuals who are not fully vaccinated are required to use face coverings over their noses and mouths while inside any Publix store.”

Winn-Dixie and other chains have released similar statements.

Walmart said its vaccinated workers can stop wearing masks on Tuesday. As an incentive, the company said it is offering workers $75 if they prove they have been vaccinated. Both Costco and Trader Joe’s said employees will still need to cover their faces.

CVS said Monday that fully vaccinated customers are no longer required to wear face coverings, but employees are required to wear them while at work.

Not all large retail chains have changed their policy on face coverings. As of Monday, Walgreens, Home Depot, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Simon Malls, which owns the St. Johns Town Center and the Avenues Mall, said they are keeping their mask mandates in place while they review the new CDC guidelines.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted in announcing the new mask recommendations that the vaccine has proved powerfully effective in preventing serious COVID-19 illness. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The updated CDC guidelines also say that fully vaccinated people don’t have to worry about social distancing except in certain conditions, such as while using public transportation.

For international travel, the recommendations said fully vaccinated people don’t need to be tested for COVID-19 unless such testing is a requirement of the destinations. The guidelines recommend that fully vaccinated people get tested only if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

As of last week, nearly 47% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 36% were considered fully vaccinated, and cases had dropped to their lowest level since September, at an average of about 35,000 a day. The vaccination rate was slightly lower in Florida: Just over 45.1% had received at least one shot and 34.6% were fully vaccinated. Georgia’s rate was among the lowest in the nation: 37.2% had at least one shot and 28.9% were fully vaccinated.