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McDonald’s reinstates mask requirements in high-risk areas

Starbucks will have employees wear masks in company-owned stores as retailers take more aggressive action on masks.
McDonald's Masks
Photograph: Shutterstock

McDonald’s is requiring masks again for both customers and workers in areas where coronavirus transmission is high, joining a growing number retailers and restaurants reinstating mask mandates amid a late-summer surge in the pandemic.  

The coffee giant Starbucks, meanwhile, will start requiring workers in all its company-owned stores to wear masks starting Aug. 5, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

The moves come as the pandemic has made an ugly turn for the worse. The seven-day average of cases surged 64% last week, with most infections now of the more virulent delta variant. The surge is particularly pronounced in states with low vaccination rates such as Missouri, Arkansas and Florida—though cases are spreading throughout the country, prompting a new round of mask mandates.

McDonald’s is responding to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in requiring masks among employees and customers regardless of whether they are vaccinated. People who are vaccinated can still get infected, though they are less likely to get COVID-19 and severe cases are rare. Masks remain required for customers and crew members who are not vaccinated.

“Any time cases rise, it creates added risk in our system,” Tiffanie Boyd, U.S. chief people officer, said in an interview. “We’re going back to masks in high-risk areas.”

At Starbucks, meanwhile, the company said in an update to its coronavirus policies on Monday that it would start requiring workers at company-owned locations to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

The coffee giant has not made facial coverings a requirement for customers, though it says it “strongly recommends” them.

Numerous retailers have recently said they would start requiring masks again. Walmart on Friday told its employees that it would start requiring masks in counties with “substantial or high transmission.” Target, Kroger and Kohl’s are also reportedly planning to require their workers to wear masks in high-risk areas.

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