Supermarket chain Winn-Dixie will now require customers to wear masks at its stores to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
In a reversal of its previous stance which did not enforce mask-wearing, Winn-Dixie parent company Southeastern Grocers announced that its position had “evolved” and that it would begin to require all customers and staff to don masks effective July 27.
The company had initially rejected a mask mandate, saying it wanted to avoid "undue friction" caused by putting its workers in the position of having to ban customers. Even with the about-face, the company said it should be state and federal officials who are responsible for issuing mask requirements.
"This unprecedented period requires a willingness to be adaptable and flexible to ever-changing circumstances, and we will continue to adjust as needed over time," Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications at Southeastern Grocers, said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates.”
Winn-Dixie joins a growing list of large supermarkets and retailers who now require customers to wear masks in their stores. Costco (COST) - Get Report, Walmart (WMT) - Get Report, supermarket chain Kroger (KR) - Get Report and department store Kohl's (KSS) - Get Report all require patrons to don face coverings, as do Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Report and Apple (AAPL) - Get Report.
More than 14.7 million worldwide have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 600,000 have died from since the global pandemic began, according to the most recent count by Johns Hopkins University, with the U.S. leading the way in both number of infections and fatalities.