Grocery chain Winn-Dixie reverses policy, will require masks

ATLANTA (AP) — The parent company of Southern supermarket chain Winn-Dixie said Monday that it is reversing its policy and will now require customers to wear masks at its stores to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Southeastern Grocers Inc. said the requirement will go into effect next Monday. The company had initially rejected a mask mandate, saying it did not want to put its workers in the position of having to ban customers.

But in a statement, the company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, said its position had “evolved” and it wanted to more clearly emphasize the importance of its customers’, workers’ and communities’ safety. Still, the company said state and federal officials should be responsible for issuing mask requirements.

“We will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates,” the company said.

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Walmart, supermarket chain Kroger and department store Kohl’s are among other retailers that have required customers to wear masks at their stores, filling the role of states and the federal government that have failed to issue such mandates on an issue that has been highly politicized by President Donald Trump and many of his ardent supporters.

___ Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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