Target (TGT) Q1 2021 earnings beat estimates, sales jump 23%

Shoppers at a Target store in New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Target said Monday it will begin requiring masks for store employees in high-risk counties in the United States as determined by the latest CDC rankings.

The rules go into effect Tuesday, it said.

The big-box retailer will strongly recommend face coverings for all shoppers in those high-risk areas, as well, but it will not be enforcing them.

“We’ll follow all local mandates, as we have throughout the pandemic, and continue to monitor guidance from the CDC closely,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Separately, Home Depot said that beginning Monday it will again be requiring all of its workers, contractors and vendors to wear masks in stores, warehouses, offices, and customers’ homes and businesses — regardless of vaccination status.

The home improvement chain said it will ask all customers to wear masks in its stores, too, and will be offering masks to those who don’t have one.

The shift in policy for Target and Home Depot comes after Walmart on Friday started requiring masks for its store staff in counties with high rates of Covid transmission.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new recommendation calling for wearing face masks again in areas of the country where the Covid-19 virus is spreading the most rapidly. It covers about two-thirds of all counties in the U.S.

In May, the CDC had said that vaccinated individuals could unmask. But the delta variant has led to a resurgence in cases, forcing the agency to reevaluate. The increase in cases is most pronounced in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lower. The CDC has warned that the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox, has a longer transmission window than the original Covid-19 strain and may make older people sicker.

The back-and-forth is putting retailers in a tough spot. Many businesses have workers on the front line as well as in corporate offices, and companies are being forced to reconsider masking and vaccination policies for both.

Walmart, for example, has told it corporate staff and management-level employees that they must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Oct. 4. It has not, however, mandated the vaccine for its store and warehouse workers. It has offered bonuses for those workers who do get the shots.

Target said Monday that it will continue to encourage workers and customers to get inoculated by offering vaccine appointments at all CVS locations within Target, and also by offering paid time off and free Lyft rides for those appointments.

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