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COVID-19 Coverage

Amazon, Walmart and JPMorgan Chase among companies relaxing employee mask mandates

Walmart is no longer requiring employees to wear masks unless they are mandated by local regulations.
Charles Krupa
/
AP
Walmart is no longer requiring employees to wear masks unless they are mandated by local regulations.

Some of the largest employers in the country say their workers will no longer be required to wear masks on the job. The development quickly followed announcements by seven states that they have dropped their indoor mask mandates.

Amazon and Walmart, two of the largest private employers in the U.S., have already begun to relax the mandates. Last week, both companies notified their U.S. employees that fully vaccinated staff no longer have to wear masks unless required by local regulations.

Goldman Sachs no longer requires workers to wear masks indoors, a policy put in place Monday, and the New York Stock Exchange has made masks optional on its trading floor for fully vaccinated workers.

After New York dropped its state mandate last Thursday, JPMorgan Chase sent employees a memo in which it said "masks are now completely voluntary anywhere in our U.S. buildings for employees who are fully vaccinated unless there are more stringent local restrictions in place."

Other banks easing mask policies include HSBC where a memo to employees states: "Based on improving COVID positivity rates, vaccinated employees in all locations except California no longer need to wear a mask at any time in non-branch offices, effective immediately". California is still subject to local regulations and branch employees must continue to wear masks.

Wells Fargo is lifting mask rules as well for vaccinated employees who are comfortable doing so, though employees at branches will also have to continue wearing masks regardless of vaccination status.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remains firm in its stance urging people to wear masks indoors, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New York and Rhode Island, all with Democratic governors, recently announced they were dropping their indoor mask mandates. Republican led states either never imposed mask mandates or ended them last year.

Walmart employees who work for the retailer's pharmacies and health clinics must remain masked at all times while employees who want to continue to wear masks can do so.

In an internal memo, Amazon cited "a sharp decline" in COVID-19 cases and increasing vaccination rates as "a positive sign we can return to the path to normal operations."

In the U.S., Walmart employs around 1.6 million people and Amazon employs around 1.1 million people, many of whom staff warehouses.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anthony Tellez