“The governor said I didn’t have to” wear a mask

The best-selling mask from the Favor the Kind store on North Henderson Avenue in Dallas has the words “over it” embroidered on it.

Spoken or unspoken, this is how people feel about the virus and wearing masks. The brief respite from the masks ended Wednesday in Dallas County, and store managers and owners are printing new posters and preparing their employees for the unruly customers who are sure to open their doors.

The new emergency comes as Judge Clay Jenkins said Dallas County would revert to requiring indoor masks for schools, businesses and buildings in the county. Any Dallas County business “providing goods or services directly to the public” must require masks indoors, including retail stores, bars and restaurants.

Most stores, including Walmart, Albertsons and Tom Thumb, have told their employees to put the masks back on since late July, when the CDC updated its guidelines due to escalating levels of transmission of the delta variant. of the coronavirus.

The mask requirement also extends to private offices, Jenkins said.

Workplaces are reassessing their target return-to-work dates, imposing deadlines for vaccinations to be completed and enforcing new policies for mask wearing.

Like their customers, companies are confused by changing directions.

Local businesses have asked the Dallas Regional Chamber to re-poll its members to get a sense of how their business peers are approaching returning to the office amid continued uncertainty and increasing cases of the virus. The chamber first asked its members about their plans to return to power in April and plans to release the results of its new poll next week.

AT&T began firing employees from its offices in July and will continue to bring employees back “in a measured manner,” spokesman Jim Greer said. AT&T also requires its executives to be fully vaccinated to enter company premises. Managers who are not currently vaccinated and whose role requires clerical work will need to be fully vaccinated by October 11. Unvaccinated AT&T managers who can work from home should continue to work remotely until they receive their vaccines.

The company will also require employees in its offices and retail stores to wear masks indoors. Greer said both policies were planned ahead of the Dallas County mandate announcement on Wednesday.

Toyota reinstated its mask requirement at its U.S. facilities on August 4 following changes to CDC guidelines. It also postponed the return of 6,500 workers to its Plano headquarters until 2022.

JP Morgan Chase, which has approximately 13,000 employees in the Dallas area, does not require vaccines for its employees but strongly recommends them. “We can’t stress enough the importance of getting the vaccine,” a note from the company’s operations committee that was sent to employees in US offices said Friday.

In light of the widespread increase in cases and the change in CDC guidelines, the bank has adopted new policies nationwide, including rapid twice-weekly COVID tests for unvaccinated employees. Vaccinated workers must wear masks in common areas but may remove them in their workspaces if social distancing is possible.

Face masks with the words
Face masks with the words “over it” on them are on sale at Favor the Kind Thursday in Dallas. (Elias Valverde II / Personal photographer)

Employers have more authority over their staff than stores have over the general public.

It’s a challenge for employees when customers tell them they don’t have to wear a mask “because the governor said I don’t have to,” said Gary Huddleston, door-to-door. word of the Texas Retailers Association.

Retailers asked the group for advice and were told to “follow Judge Jenkins’ order,” he said. Managers also help store workers learn methods to defuse situations that may arise in mask-resistant customers.

Liberty Burger employee Nicole Romero checks a takeout order while answering the phone at Liberty Burger in Dallas.

“We just hope customers have patience with the retailers and their employees who have been through this pandemic and winter storms and now the delta variant,” Huddleston said.

Albertsons and Tom Thumb spokeswoman Christy Lara said that “the supermarket chain’s health and safety policies reflect both current CDC guidelines and local jurisdiction guidelines.” New signs for grocery stores have been printed stating that masks are mandatory for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, vendors and customers, Lara said.

Likewise, Kroger’s spokeswoman April Martin said her stores were following the Dallas County order.

National channels are used to monitoring and complying with various national and local rules. As the pandemic progressed last year, Walmart, Kroger and others made masks a chain-wide policy for employees and relaxed it for customers in the spring and summer. .

“As we have done since the start of the pandemic, we will comply with all local mandates,” Walmart spokeswoman Lauren Willis said.

(Right to left) Josiah Smith, 6, hands Leo Martinez, 6, his water bottle after opening it for him on the first day of school on Monday, August 2, 2021, at the elementary school HI Holland from Dallas.  (Juan Figueroa / The Dallas Morning News)

Walmart adopted a policy on July 30 that all employees, including those fully vaccinated, must wear masks not only in stores and distribution centers, but also in its offices. At the same time, Walmart encouraged employees to get vaccinated at one of its in-store pharmacies and doubled the incentive from $ 75 to $ 150 for anyone who receives vaccines by October 4. .

Many retailers have removed the masks from the sales area or put them on clearance shelves over the summer.

“But now they’re selling like hot cakes,” said Carley Seale, owner of Favor The Kind. Its staff resumed wearing masks a few weeks ago after starting to hear from recently vaccinated people who tested positive.

Her staff aren’t upset about wearing masks again and just want to be safe, Seale said. “Over the past 18 months we have proven that we can do our job with or without a face mask. “

Twitter: @MariaHalkias @anngehan

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