McMasks are back.
McDonald’s announced Monday that customers and employees must wear masks in areas of high coronavirus transmission — regardless of their vaccination status.
The company said it was responding to guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now recommends masks for everyone in high transmission areas, according to USA Today.
Areas of high transmission of the virus are determined by data published daily by the CDC. The data covers each county, which can sometimes lead to confusion if transmission rates differ widely among adjacent counties.
The map Tuesday showed high transmission areas (in red) covered most of the United States.
McDonald’s was among the retailers that dropped mask requirements for vaccinated people in May.
The company said Monday that it has always required people who are not vaccinated to wear masks, although customers were not asked about their vaccination status.
“Any time cases rise, it creates added risk in our system,” said Tiffanie Boyd, U.S. chief people officer of the company, according to Restaurant Business Online. “We’re going back to masks in high-risk areas.”
The action by McDonald’s comes at a fluid time of rule-making as many major retailers — including Walmart, Target, Lowe’s and Kohl’s — are imposing a mask mandate on employees who work in areas of high virus transmission regardless of vaccination status, according to Forbes.
Starbucks has also imposed a mask mandate on workers in company-owned stores.
For now, those companies are only encouraging customers to wear masks.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union has called for a national mask mandate.
“The CDC recommendation does not go far enough. A national mask mandate is the only way we can finally take control of this virus and every retail CEO in the country must recognize that now is the time for all of us to mask up so we can keep our economy open and communities safe,” union President Marc Perrone said in a statement.
“With COVID cases continuing to surge, essential workers have been forced to play vaccination police because of the confusing patchwork of state and local mask policies. Urgent action is needed from states and retailers to strengthen COVID safety enforcement so the burden doesn’t fall on the shoulders of essential workers already stretched thin,” he said.
“As America’s largest union for essential retail and grocery workers, UFCW is calling on the CDC as well as elected and business leaders to do much more to strengthen COVID safety measures and remove the barriers to vaccine access leaving so many essential workers unprotected as we confront this new surge.
“American lives are on the line and failure to act is not an option.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who imposed strict mask mandates last year, noted he is unable to do so this time around because his emergency powers have expired.
The Democrat urged local governments to do what he would have done and impose tough rules on their communities, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.
“You know how this turns out,” Cuomo said. “You know what those facts mean. You know what’s going to happen in the movie. Don’t wait for what you know is going to happen. We beat the damn thing by being smart the first time. Be smart again.”
“It’s up to the local governments. Learn the lesson from last year. Don’t deny reality,” he said.
While the number of coronavirus cases has risen, July saw the lowest number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States — 5,075 — since February 2020.
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