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WI stores issue mask recommendations, await local mandates for further guidance

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P 10 GROCERY STORE POLICIES

MADISON (WKOW) -- With the resurgence of COVID-19 across the country due to the fast-spreading, aggressive Delta variant, a growing number of companies are putting restrictions back on their employees and their customers.

That includes some of the nation's biggest names, like Walmart and Target -- but there are also new recommendations in place at local stores like Metcalfe's Market and Pick 'n Save.

Walmart is requiring workers at its headquarters to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and it's requiring all employees to wear masks inside its stores. Target is also requiring employees to wear masks inside stores, and strongly recommending face coverings for shoppers.

Here in Wisconsin, many stores aren't quite sure yet exactly what to do.

"The CDC gave the update, but they really didn't give a firm recommendation," said Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz.

Scholz says the new guidance about the Delta variant came right after employees finally started to feel comfortable taking off masks.

"Just a week or two after that, we're now back in kind of a holding pattern," he said.

Now, the association is advising its members to do what they feel is best for employees or customers -- and to prepare for any mandates.

"Be in touch with your local health department," Scholz said. "Make sure you understand how they're viewing it and what's happening in your community."

Some stores, like Metcalfe's, are now requiring employees to mask back up -- regardless of vaccinations.

"We do have a critical function to perform, and that's providing food," co-owner Kevin Metcalfe told WISN-TV. "And so in order to do that, we try to create the most safe environment we can."

Kroger grocery stores, including Pick 'n Save and Metro Market, are requiring unvaccinated staff to wear masks -- and strongly encouraging everyone, regardless of vaccination, to wear masks.

In a statement, they told 27 News:

"Our current mask guidance requires unvaccinated associates to wear masks and requests that unvaccinated customers wear masks when in our stores and facilities. In light of the Delta variant and updated CDC recommendations, we strongly encourage all individuals, including those who are vaccinated, to wear a mask when in our stores and facilities. We will continue to abide by all state and local mandates and encourage all Americans to get vaccinated, including our associates."

Roundy's Sopkesperson

Scholz says grocers are ready for noncompliance, but they feel people will comply because we've all gone through this once already.

"Every day, a grocer got up, went to the store, and they learned something new and put it in a place they made it work," he said. "Now, we've got a year's worth of experience."

Scholz says that experience extends to the customers as well, and he doesn't anticipate any "panic buying" even if mandates do come back.

"It's a respiratory thing," Scholz said of COVID-19. "So you probably don't need 295 rolls of toilet paper to survive the next round."

Public Health Madison and Dane County told 27 News Monday that it does not have plans for a mask mandate in Dane County at this time.

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Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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