Starting Monday, Costco will require shoppers to wear masks that cover their mouth and nose while in the store, the company announced.
The only exceptions are for children younger than 2 and people who are unable to wear masks or face coverings because of medical conditions.
The wholesale giant also is allowing only two people to enter the store per membership card. In some places, such as El Paso, Texas, and the state of Kentucky, only one person per card will be allowed.
In a message to customers, Costco President Craig Jelinek said the company is making safety adjustments that “are too numerous to list” but include enhanced sanitation, modified hours and plexiglass shields at checkstands.
Costco is offering special operating hours for customers age 60 and older to shop and is allowing health care workers and first responders to skip to the front of lines to enter its warehouses.
It was unclear Wednesday whether other stores would follow suit and require customers to wear masks. Some grocery stores have implemented other measures, such as putting up plexiglass sneeze guards at cashier stands, creating one-way aisles, marking six feet of distance on the floor at checkout lines, and requiring workers to wear masks. However, it has been difficult to enforce social distancing among shoppers.
Washington state has designated grocery stores an essential service, keeping them open while food services, such as restaurants, are limited to delivery and pickups.
The country’s two largest grocers, Walmart and Kroger, are checking employees’ temperatures at the beginning of each shift and providing workers with gloves and masks. The added precautions come amid a wave of worker strikes and petitions aimed at getting employers like Amazon, Trader Joe’s and the grocery-delivery service Instacart to take additional steps to protect workers as infections and deaths among grocery employees rise.
In response to an inquiry from The Seattle Times on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Whole Foods Market did not address customer behavior but said the company was following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as that of other state and local health authorities, including local ordinances regarding personal protective equipment.
“Since April 13, we have required anyone working in our stores to wear a mask throughout the entirety of their shifts and are offering personal face shields to all Team Members as an additional, optional protective measure,” the Whole Foods spokesperson said in an email.
PCC Community Markets said in a statement that customers will not be required to wear masks but are “strongly” encouraged to do so.
A spokesperson for Trader Joe’s said in an email, “Overwhelmingly our preference is for customers to wear masks while shopping in our stores so we are strongly urging them to do so.”
Spokespeople for Kroger and WinCo didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Information from The Seattle Times archives and The Washington Post is included in this report.