Twenty-one retail CEOs are publicly urging the governors of all U.S. states to require masks in stores, according to an op-ed by the group published by CNN.
The chief executives, who include Best Buy's Corie Barry, Dollar Tree's Gary Philbin, Ulta's Mary Dillon, Gap Inc.'s Sonia Syngal and Nordstrom's Erik Nordstrom, called the failure to do so in states that haven't "simply irresponsible and ... counter to basic principles of public well-being."
Retailers themselves, most notably Walmart, the country's largest, are increasingly taking it upon themselves to require masks in order to shop in their stores. Gap, Inc. was the latest to join that group, which now also includes CVS, Walgreens and GameStop, among others.
Despite scientific evidence that masks, when worn by everyone in an indoor setting, are effective against the virus that causes COVID-19, the issue has become a political football.
Officials of the Trump Administration, including the president, are rarely seen wearing masks in public, and the president has downplayed the necessity of the practice, despite his own health experts touting it as one.
The retail CEOs pushed against that on Monday. "Promoting safe and responsible work environments for businesses and customers should not be a matter of politics," they said. "It is a matter of safety, decency and respect for all. Even though wearing a mask materially reduces the spread of Covid-19, some states have yet to mandate face coverings be worn. This is simply irresponsible and runs counter to basic principles of public well-being."
Along with Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, 28 states have issued such mandates, according to an analysis by ABC News. Elsewhere, there are some mandates at the municipal level. That has led to conflict in Georgia, where the governor has forbidden mayors to institute face covering requirements, including an unprecedented court battle between Governor Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
The executives seem to be exasperated by such controversy over what they said should be seen as a relatively easy and inexpensive way to stymie the pandemic, titling their editorial, "Enough is enough."
The issue is having an effect on retail traffic, as the majority of consumers express wariness about shopping indoors, and are fearful of fellow patrons who fail to cover their faces or keep a safe distance, as public health officials recommend. Spikes in COVID-19 cases in some areas have led retailers to reclose locations.
"Without government leadership, a small, but meaningful, segment of customers will continue to disregard private-sector warnings, placing themselves and others in harm's way by shopping without a mask or face covering," the CEOs wrote.
In the absence of more widespread acceptance and requirement of masks, enforcement has fallen to retailers and their store workers, which the CEOs characterized as dangerous. "All retailers will do our part to clearly communicate such policies to our employees and the public, but it must be the role of government to properly enforce this important safety initiative, and it must be the responsibility of every individual to follow the law," they said.
The op-ed was signed by:
- Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy
- Gary Philbin, president and CEO of Dollar Tree
- Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty
- Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap, Inc.
- Erik Nordstrom, CEO of Nordstrom
- Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers
- Johannes Fieber, CEO of Lidl US
- Dick Johnson, chairman, president and CEO of Foot Locker
- George Sherman, CEO of GameStop
- Dinesh Lathi, president and CEO of Tailored Brands
- Laura Karet, CEO of Giant Eagle
- Jill Soltau, CEO of JCPenney
- Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone
- Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co.
- Gary Muto, CEO of Ascena Retail
- Wade Miquelon, president and CEO of Joann Stores
- Sharon Leite, CEO of Vitamin Shoppe
- Javier Quinones, CEO of IKEA US
- Ron Coughlin, CEO of Petco
- JK Symancyk, president and CEO of PetSmart
- Stephen Smith, president and CEO of L.L.Bean