Multiple retail groups and associations are turning to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidance on mask wearing and enforcement.
On July 27, the renewed mask recommendation from the CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors if in localities experiencing “substantial” or “high” rates of COVID-19 transmission as rates in the spread of the Delta variant rise. CDC guidelines for the unvaccinated remain the same: mask until fully vaccinated, NACS Daily reported.
This week, NACS, the association representing the convenience store industry, joined nine other associations in penning a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary James Frederick and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky requesting clarification on the recently issued CDC mask guidance, arguing the enforcement burden should not be placed on retail employees.
The letter, which was sent on Aug. 3, asked the agencies “to prioritize the safety of our employees and clarify that businesses should not be the enforcers of mask wearing.”
Collectively, the 10 retail groups point out how embattled frontline retail employees have been during the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to serve the public with food, fuel and other necessities. When some localities put the responsibility of mask enforcement on retailers, many confrontations became heated and physical, including several deaths related to mask enforcement, they noted.
“Preserving the safety and well-being of retail employees is imperative. Store employees are not prepared to enforce health restrictions. Requiring them to do so presents the potential for confrontations fueled by anger that can turn violent quickly. That is not worth the risk,” the joint letter stated. “While state and local governments pass and enforce their own policies, we urge you to lead on this worker safety issue by publicly stating that in jurisdictions that decide to require masks, the burden of enforcement should not be placed on businesses and their employees.”
Joining NACS in the joint letter were the Asian American Hotel Owners Association; the Energy Marketers of America; the Food Industry Association; International Franchise Association; National Association of Truckstop Operators; National Grocers Association; National Retail Federation and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America.