UPDATE: A May 19 announcement from parent company Kroger indicates that Smith’s Food & Drug and Food 4 Less stores will drop mask requirements for fully vaccinated customers and “most” fully vaccinated employees. The mask requirement will end on May 20, according to the statement.
Details of the policy changes:
• Starting May 20, fully vaccinated customers and most fully vaccinated associates no longer need to wear a mask in our facilities, including stores, distribution centers, plants, and offices, unless otherwise required by state or local jurisdiction. If there is a state or local mandate, we will adhere to that requirement and its timeline.
• Non-vaccinated associates will be required to wear a mask.
• Associates in our pharmacy and clinic locations will be required to continue wearing a mask due to the CDC’s guidance for healthcare settings.
• We request that non-vaccinated customers continue to wear a mask.
• And we will continue to respect the choice of individuals who prefer to continue to wear a mask.
(Original story appears below)
(NEXSTAR) – The country’s largest operator of supermarkets is keeping its mask requirement firmly in place.
Local supermarkets Smith’s Food & Drug and Food 4 Less, part of the Kroger Family of Companies, which operate thousands of grocery stores across the U.S., has confirmed that its customers are still required to wear masks when visiting any of the company’s locations. The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed its mask guidance for fully vaccinated Americans on Thursday.
“At this time, The Kroger Family of Companies continues to require everyone in our stores to wear masks,” reads a statement issued by Kroger in response to Thursday’s new guidance.
“As we have throughout the pandemic, we are reviewing current safety practices, the CDC’s latest guidance, and soliciting feedback from associates to guide the next phase of our policy,” the company added.
The Kroger Family of Companies currently operates supermarkets including Smith’s Food & Drug, Food 4 Less, Kroger and more than a dozen others throughout the U.S.
On Thursday, the CDC eased its indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, as well as its recommendations for fully vaccinated people in large outdoor crowds. This guidance, however, only applies unless otherwise prohibited by “federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
The CDC further noted that masks are still required on in crowded indoor settings, such as public transportation, or in hospitals and prisons.
Kroger’s decision to maintain its mask requirements, meanwhile, follows a similar announcement Kroger issued in March, following the governors of Texas and Mississippi lifting their states’ mask mandates. At the time, Kroger confirmed that stores would continue to require masks for the “continued safety of our customers and associates.”
Kroger is also currently offering a one-time $100 payment employees who choose to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The company further encourages social distancing in stores, as well as its “low-touch” or “no-touch” pickup options.