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Walmart Just Made This Major Decision Regarding Face Masks in Stores

The retail giant's new rule goes into effect July 20.

Walmart and Sam's Club just announced that every customer who wants to shop at any of their 5,000-plus locations in the United States must wear a mask before entering stores. The policy goes into effect July 20.

The news came in a joint statement released on Wednesday morning written by representatives for both Walmart, U.S., and Sam's Club. The advanced notice of five days is to ensure that the company has "time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage, and train associates on the new protocols," the statement reads.

It's the latest major move by the retail giant as it seeks to impose greater safety measures in stores during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Walmart announced that it would be introducing "health ambassadors" at stores in select markets where face mask requirements are mandated by state governments. The joint statement this morning addressed that effort. "The ambassadors, identifiable by their black polo shirts, will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution," the company said. "We are currently considering different solutions for customers when this requirement takes effect on July 20."

Sam's Club members who show up without a mask will be provided with a complimentary mask.

The joint statement obliquely addressed the ongoing controversy and politicalization of facial coverings amid the COVID-19 outbreak. "We know some people have differing opinions on this topic," the statement read. "We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC."

For its part, the CDC would no doubt applaud Walmart's decision—and so would the vast majority of scientists who have studied COVID-19. A recent study from Virginia Commonwealth University revealed compelling evidence that countries that quickly enacted widespread face-mask requirements had far lower death rates than countries that didn't. Additionally, analysis by the Philadelphia Inquirer found that states that only recommended their residents wear masks—not required them—saw coronavirus cases rise by 84 percent over a two-week period. By comparison, states that had mandated masks saw cases decrease by 25 percent over the same period.

Given the wealth of health data such as that—and the fact that more than 9 in 10 Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart—this new shopping rule is one that could potentially have a major impact on American lives. And for more up-to-the-minute reporting on the coronavirus, make sure you're aware of The 8 States Predicted to Have the Next Major COVID-19 Outbreak.

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