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As shopping resumes, retailers reluctantly becoming 'mask police'

By Nicole Norfleet, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Fashion Daily News

Some shoppers may be loosening their own rules about when to wear a mask, if at all, to help stem the spread of COVID-19. But retailers are staying firm with theirs, and some cities are joining them.

At the Menards in Maplewood, Minn., a large sign secured to a tarp informs customers that masks are required to shop at the home improvement store.

Like Target and most grocery stores, all employees are required to wear masks. And like Costco, Menards also mandates masks for customers in most of its locations.

"We are simply unable to provide service to anyone who doesn't wear a mask," said Jeff Abbott, spokesman for Menard Inc., which is based in Eau Claire, Wis.

As some states loosen restrictions on activities where people will interact with others - for example, bars can now be open and youth outdoor sports are allowed in Minnesota and Wisconsin - municipalities are requiring masks in indoor areas.

But while retailers and some cities are firm on the need for masks, enforcement is a challenge. Government and business leaders have said they hoped public awareness campaigns and clear signage could help educate people, especially after several well-publicized violent attacks by customers without masks when they were confronted.


Target requires masks of customers only in cities that mandate it. The Minneapolis-based retailer, though, strongly encourages that everyone wear masks and social distance in the stores.

In a municipality that requires masks, employees will remind customers as they enter stores about the regulation. It relies on local officials to enforce the mandate, though, said Target spokesman Joshua Thomas.

"Safety of both team members and guests is going to always be our number one priority," Thomas said.

In the Los Angeles area, a Target employee in May broke his arm as two men who refused to wear masks were being escorted out of the store, according to news accounts.


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