Walmart requiring vaccination, masks for many employees

National

A man and child wearing facemasks walk in front of a Walmart store in Washington, DC on July 15, 2020. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In a memo, Walmart announced that associates who work in multiple facilities, and associates of its campus office, will need to be vaccinated by Oct. 4.

“We have made this decision to require all market, regional and divisional associates who work in multiple facilities and all campus office associates to be vaccinated by October 4, unless they have an approved exception. This includes all new hires,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo sent to KNWA.

On Friday, Walmart also required associates, including those fully vaccinated, to wear masks in its stores.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer is following a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made earlier this week. The agency announced Tuesday that even vaccinated people should return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. 

Walmart says its return to mask requirements is due to “the concerning levels of transmission of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.” The company dropped the mask requirement for customers 11 weeks ago.

In COVID hot spots where there are mask mandates, masks will be required for associates inside the company’s facilities, including stores, clubs, distribution centers, fulfillment centers and campus offices.  

In an effort to get more people vaccinated, Walmart said it is doubling its incentive for associates to get the shot, going from paying associates $75 to $150.

“This includes new associates on their first day in these roles at Walmart, even if they were vaccinated months ago,” the company said. Associates who already received $75 will get $75 moreThe incentive program runs through Oct. 4.

Walmart says associates will receive two hours of paid time off to get the shot. The company is also providing up to three days of paid leave for any possible adverse reactions to the vaccine. Its COVID-19 leave policy is also still in place.

“As a country, vaccination options have been available for months, but, unfortunately, because so many people have chosen not to receive it, we’ve left ourselves more vulnerable to variants,” the company stated. “It is important that necessary steps are taken to keep ourselves and our communities safe.”

Walmart encourages those associates to begin the vaccination process as soon as possible since it takes two weeks after the final dose to be fully vaccinated.

More information will be released to associates on vaccination requirements and the steps to verify vaccination status.

“We want to get to a place where we can use our offices and be together safely. It’s important for our business, our culture, our speed and our innovation,” the company said. “As you know we have been gradually coming back into our office spaces with the idea of being closer to pre-pandemic levels after Labor Day. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and determine later if that timeline needs to be adjusted.”

McMillon also says in the memo that business travel to stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers is allowed.

“However, travel should be limited to business-critical trips only and associates should continue to look for ways to participate in supplier meetings and conferences virtually,” he said.

Walmart is offering the vaccine for free at any of its more than 5,100 Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies. You can make an appointment through the schedulers, or you can walk into the pharmacy to get your shot.

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