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Target follows Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe in ditching face masks for fully-vaccinated customers

Target announced on Monday that fully-vaccinated customers need no longer wear a face mask in their stores, unless the local government rules otherwise.

The Minnesota-based company followed the lead set on Friday by Trader Joe's, Walmart and Costco in saying that customers who have had their COVID vaccine no longer need to wear a mask while shopping.

The news came shortly before Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, announced his state was lifting its mask mandate on Wednesday. 

'Effective Wednesday, NYS will adopt the CDC's new mask & social distancing guidance for vaccinated people,' Cuomo said. 

'Unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask. 

'Masks will still be required on public transit, in schools & some communal settings. Private venues may require masks.'

Shoppers at Target will no longer have to wear face masks, unless local rules order them

Thirteen states say they are lifting their mask mandates in accordance with the new CDC guidance and 11 states are keeping them. New York's is lifting on Wednesday 

Restrictions still remain in states including New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Wisconsin and Virginia.

The governor of Massachusetts said on Monday his state's mask mandate will end on May 29.

Target's announcement came four days after the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) announced that they were updating their guidance, and fully-vaccinated people need no longer wear face masks indoors or out.

'The health and safety of our guests and team members have been Target's top priority throughout the pandemic, and we've closely and consistently followed the CDC's recommendations over time,' Target said in a statement. 

'Given the CDC's updated guidance last week, Target will no longer require fully vaccinated guests and team members to wear face coverings in our stores, except where it's required by local ordinances. 

'Face coverings will continue to be strongly recommended for guests and team members who are not fully vaccinated and we'll continue our increased safety and cleaning measures, including social distancing, throughout our stores.'

The Minneapolis-based company said they are offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments at nearly all CVS at Target locations for guests and team members. 

'We're also providing paid time to U.S. hourly team members when they get their vaccines and free Lyft rides, up to $15 each way, for our team to get to and from their appointments,' they said. 

A similar announcement was placed on Trader Joe's website on Friday, stating: 'We encourage customers to follow the guidance of health officials, including, as appropriate, CDC guidelines that advise customers who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while shopping.'

Vaccinated shoppers can go maskless immediately, Walmart said. Vaccinated workers can stop wearing them on May 18. 

As an incentive, the company said it is offering workers $75 if they prove they have been vaccinated. 

A Walmart customer in Derry, New Hampshire in November 2020. The store has announced it was lifting its rule saying customers must wear masks while shopping 

A Costco store in Washington DC. The wholesaler has lifted its rule on masks, with vaccinated shoppers allowed to peruse its aisles bare-faced 

A Trader Joe's shopper in New York in August 2020. TJ's has also lifted its mask rule - although customers must still cover up in individual states or counties with ongoing mask mandates 

John Bechtold puts his face covering on as he passes his storefront sign that lists COVID-19 protective covering required to enter in his retail shop on Friday in Pittsburgh's South Side

A customer exits a corner market while wearing a protective mask in the retail shopping district of the SoHo neighborhood of the Manhattan

Both Costco and Trader Joe's said they would not require proof of vaccination, but employees at the grocery chain will still need to cover their faces. 

Workers will need to answer 'yes' to a vaccination question in a daily health assessment in order to go maskless, the company said in a memo to employees posted on its corporate website.

'Integrity is one of our core values, and we trust that associates will respect that principle when answering,' the Walmart memo states. To get the bonus, workers will have to show their original vaccination certificate.

Walmart was one of the first retailers to mandate masks last July. Its move to allow vaccinated shoppers and workers to not wear masks could lead other chains to follow suit. 

Tourists, some in face masks while others are not, walk the National Mall in Washington, DC on May 14

A group of young men are see without face masks sitting in Washington Square Park, New York on May 13

Anni Bacchus joins coworkers from Atlanta Eats at a lunch on the Atlanta Beltline on Friday. The group said they were only sitting so close together because the CDC updated their mask guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinated people

People visiting the Santa Monica Pier wearing masks on Friday in Santa Monica

A number of visitors to the Santa Monica Pier were spotted wearing face masks on Friday

But several major chains, including CVS, Home Depot, Macy's and supermarket giant Kroger Co., said they are still requiring masks in stores for the time being, though some said they are reviewing their policies. 

More than a dozen states quickly embraced new federal guidelines that say fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most cases.

But other states and cities and some major businesses hesitated amid doubts about whether the approach is safe or even workable.

As many business owners pointed out, there is no easy way to determine who has been vaccinated and who hasn't. 

Industry leaders have warned of the potential for confusion and hard feelings among customers because of the varying rules from place to place. Even in states that have dropped mask mandates, stores and other businesses can still require face coverings if they want. 

Plenty of people were still wearing masks along the Santa Monica Pier on May 14

Servers and diners in Santa Monica must still mask up. They're pictured on the famous promenade on May 14

The CDC's recommendations are non-binding, and actual policy is left for the relevant local authorities or employers to decide which means those in Santa Monica, pictured, must still wear masks

New guidelines, issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, essentially work on the honor system, leaving it up to people to do the right thing.

The CDC's recommendations are non-binding, and actual policy is left for the relevant local authorities or employers to decide.

It also doesn't apply to planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation, or to medical settings such as hospitals.

The situation has left CEOs and local officials caught in a dilemma -- whether to follow the scientific recommendations right away, or make sure people are comfortable with it.

Labor groups and others warned that employees at stores, restaurants, bars and other businesses could be left exposed to the coronavirus from customers and could be forced into the unwanted role of 'vaccination police.'

The City of Santa Monica has strict requirements for people to wear face coverings along with penalties for those who do not wear them when required

In Malvern, Pennsylvania, owner Sean Weinberg took down the mask signs Friday at Restaurant Alba, which he runs with his wife. He also emailed his employees to let them know they can forgo masks at work if they are fully vaccinated.

'It´s just a headache we don´t want to have to fight any more,' Weinberg said.

Half the states had mask requirements in place for most indoor spaces when the CDC issued its recommendations amid tumbling cases and rising vaccination rates.

Nearly 47% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and cases have dropped to their lowest level since last September, at an average of about 35,000 a day. 

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted in making the announcement that the vaccine has proved powerfully effective in preventing serious COVID-19 illness.

Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Ohio, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Kentucky, Washington, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, North Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Rhode Island announced plans to fall in line with the CDC guidance either immediately or in the coming weeks. 

Some cities, including New Orleans and Anchorage, did the same.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown said the new approach makes clear that vaccines are the fastest way to get back to doing the things 'we all love.' 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear called the guidance a 'game-changer.'  

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said the change is 'a heck of a benefit.'

Other states, such as California, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Hawaii and Massachusetts, and cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul kept mask rules in place for the time being.

'We're frankly not there yet,' New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said.

Hawaii Governor David Ige said, 'We are unable to determine who is vaccinated and who is not vaccinated. The best mitigation measure is for everyone to wear a mask.'  

Confusion over the guidance extended to the White House, where press secretary Jen Psaki said, 'I think we're still figuring out how to implement it.'

The CDC and the Biden administration had faced pressure to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated people in part to highlight the benefits of the shots and motivate other people to get inoculated.

Although no longer required outside, a sign advises visitors to wear masks at the Denver Zoo in Denver, Colorado, on May 13

Restaurant workers in places where mask mandates remain are finding themselves caught in the middle, said Jot Condie, the president of the California Restaurant Association. He said his phone has been 'blowing up' with reports of increasingly belligerent customers.

'The person who is not wearing a mask will say, @My president just told me that the CDC just issued guidance and I´ve been vaccinated and I´m not going to wear a mask,''he said.

Scott Dolch, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, said owners are concerned about being put in a difficult position.

'They´re like, OK, now I have to deal with the honor system, hoping that that person that told me they´re totally vaccinated' is telling the truth, Dolch said.

The CDC announcement sent airline stocks soaring, though the guidance still calls for masks in crowded indoor settings such as planes, buses, trains, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, and says people should obey all local and state regulations.

A hild wears a mask while looking out the window of a beachfront restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif. A number of states immediately embraced new guidelines from the CDC that say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors or out in most situations

Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, South Dakota´s lone congressman, marked the announcement by sharing a video demonstrating how cast-off masks can now be used for things like suit pocket handkerchiefs, bookmarks or beer cozies.

'It seems too wasteful to just throw them away,' he said. 'I think I´ll have my mother make them into a quilt.'

Shelby Lofton, a reporter for WKYT-TV in Lexington, Kentucky, tweeted: 'So, I guess I´ll start wearing lipstick again. Also need to work on my poker face.'

In Detroit, a fully vaccinated Christoph Cunningham, 28, wore a mask as he rode an electric scooter to a bar for lunch and said he agrees with the relaxed guidelines.

'I have confidence in the science behind it all,' said Cunningham, who runs a catering business. 'I´ll eventually take my mask off more and more.'

Some states and some businesses are taking a wait-and-see attitude. Maskless people in Atlanta are pictured

A sign requiring a COVID-19 protective mask is required to enter is in front of Dee's Cafe, in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said the 1.7 million-member union is still trying to sort out what the change means for schools. Many school districts already ditched mask requirements in recent weeks, as had many states and cities, as virus numbers fell.

That meant the CDC announcement didn´t mean much in places like the tourist town of Branson, Missouri, which dropped its mandate early last month after several mask supporters were voted out of office.

'I think it just further supports the decision we made to lift the mask mandate,' said the town's new mayor, Larry Milton. 

'It was dividing our community. We heard loud and clear from voters that they wanted the mask mandate repealed.'

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