Not wearing a mask is becoming less of an option for those visiting popular grocery, pharmacy and department store chains in Hall County and across the country.
Companies like CVS Pharmacy, Target, Publix, Kroger and Walmart have already implemented face-covering policies nationwide to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
Tuesday, July 21, was the first day Publix has asked customers to don a mask. David Brewer, manager of the Thompson Bridge Road location in Gainesville, said his staff have taken steps to inform people, including placing an instructive sign at the entrance and making announcements over the intercom.
Although masks are mandatory, Brewer said Publix’s employees will not drag someone out of the store for not following the rules. Instead, they’ll politely ask them to wear one or take one of the store’s free face coverings. So far, Brewer said he hasn’t experienced any challenges with guests observing the policy.
“We did have one customer inform another customer that it’s beginning,” Brewer said. “They’re self-policing. We’ll see how it goes.”
Solomon Cartrette, staff member at the CVS Pharmacy on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville, said the drugstore also started enforcing a mask policy Tuesday. Although they don’t offer free masks, he said people can purchase them at the front counter.
Stores requiring masks in Hall County
ALDI: Effective Monday, July 27
Best Buy: Effective now
CVS Pharmacy: Effective now
Kohl’s: Effective now
Kroger: Effective now
Publix: Effective now
Sam’s Club: Effective now
Target: Effective Saturday, Aug. 1
Walmart: Effective now
Walgreens: Effective now
“We’re not forcing people (to wear masks), but we are trying to push it and remind people that come in without a mask that it’s something that should be taken care of to protect others,” Cartrette said.
On Saturday, Aug. 1, all customers entering Target stores will be required to wear a mask.
Larry Shaw, who manages the Flowery Branch Target, said most of his customers already don facial coverings when shopping.
When the policy does take effect, he said the staff members who sanitize the grocery carts and hand baskets will also remind guests to follow the rules. Target will supply free masks for those who don’t have them, Shaw said.
“You can’t force somebody to wear a mask,” he said. “We don’t want to get into fights with guests. Most people follow the rules, and we’re very fortunate.”
Speaking with The Times as she passed through Gainesville’s downtown square, Heather Cannon said she believes wearing a mask should be voluntary in public spaces. Although she does cover her face when visiting a doctor’s office and knows people who have tested positive for COVID-19, Cannon said she isn’t fearful of passing or receiving the illness at retail stores.
“I know Publix is wanting people to, but I also know they’re not going to stop people from coming in the store without them,” the Gainesville resident said. “I think every business has a right to make decisions that they want, and I respect that.”
Meanwhile, Nairika Cornett, who also lives in Gainesville, said she masks up frequently.
Cornett said she makes a point to wear a mask whenever she enters a public building. During the pandemic, Cornett said she has depended on epidemiologists for her source of information regarding COVID-19, instead of other people’s speculations.
If everyone in the U.S. wore masks, limited their time in public and followed other COVID-19 recommendations from medical experts, Cornett said she believes people could return to their desired lifestyles at a faster pace.
“It comes with a civic responsibility,” she said. “If we don’t do it now, then when? What needs to happen before we as a nation decide we have to look out for one another?”