Walmart requires headquarters staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 4, while Disney gives employees at all US locations 60 days

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is requiring all headquarters employees and executives traveling within the U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4, while Walt Disney Co. late Friday said all US workers are required to be vaccinated.

The shopkeeper WMT,
+0.22%,
based in Bentonville, Ark., it also reverts to its mask policy for its employees who work in retail stores, clubs, distribution facilities, and warehouses. In the future, they will have to wear masks in areas with high infection rates, even if they have been vaccinated.

Coronavirus update: CDC releases data informing facemask rethink, says delta variant of COVID means ‘war has changed’

The measures are part of a series of sweeping measures the country’s largest retailer and private employer announced Friday to contain the spread of the virus and get more of its employees to get their shot.

The vaccine mandate excludes frontline workers, who, according to the company, have lower vaccination rates than management. But it hopes that executives, who represent only a fraction of the 1.5 million employees, will serve as a source of inspiration.

“We hope this will influence even more of our frontline workers to get vaccinated,” said Walmart spokesman Scott Pope.

Pope declined to disclose vaccination coverage for frontline workers and the rest of Walmart’s employees.

Walmart is also encouraging customers to wear masks in stores located in rising case areas and will add signs to the back at entrances. It will also bring back so-called health ambassadors who will be stationed at the entrances and hand out masks.

The company is also doubling to $150 the incentive it offers employees in stores and clubs, as well as other facilities such as distribution centers, to get the vaccine. Those who have already received the $75 incentive will receive another $75 in their salary on August 19.

To see: Vaccinations on the rise in some US states with rising infections

The moves come three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course on some masking guidelines, and recommended that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the US where the delta variant of the virus coronavirus causes waves of infection.

Walmart’s move to demand vaccinations from its employees at its headquarters follows Google’s GOOG,
-0.97%

GOOGL,
-0.77%
steps announced earlier in the week that it is delaying a return to office for most employees until mid-October and rolling out a policy that eventually requires everyone to be vaccinated once the sprawling campuses are fully reopened. Google’s announcement was shortly followed by Facebook FB,
-0.56%,
who also said it will make vaccines mandatory for US employees who work in offices.

Exceptions are made for medical and other reasons.

Several government agencies have already announced that all their employees should be vaccinated, but the business community has so far been more cautious, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.

Delta DAL,
-3.23%
and United Airlines UAL,
-3.65%
require new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs GS,
-0.71%
and Morgan Stanley MS,
-0.31%
require their employees to disclose their vaccination status, but do not require staff to be vaccinated.

However, given Walmart’s undue influence on the economy, more companies could make similar announcements.

In fact, after the announcement of Walmart, Disney DIS,
-1.31%
said Friday it requires all U.S. salaried and non-union workers who work at any of its locations to be fully vaccinated. It said workers who have not yet been vaccinated and are working on the spot have 60 days from Friday to complete their protocols. Those who are still working from home must present a vaccination verification before their return. Disney also said that all new employees must be fully vaccinated before they are hired.

“Vaccinations are the best tool we all have to control this global pandemic and protect our employees,” Disney said in a statement. Disney has about 200,000 employees, but it’s unclear how many of them are affected. The company, based in Burbank, California, did not respond to questions.

Grocery chain Kroger KR,
-0.05%
announced Friday that it will encourage all customers, employees and suppliers, including those who have received the injection, to wear masks in its stores. But the company said it will not issue a vaccine mandate for its employees.

Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics, said Walmart’s move could serve as a “green light” for other companies to demand vaccines, given its massive following and location.

“It’s located in the middle of the country,” Perkins said. “They’re talking to the lower, middle-income buyers and workers.”

Walmart’s drastically changing policies reflect growing concerns about rising infection rates.

“We continue to monitor with great concern the developments of the pandemic and the spread of variants, especially the delta variant,” Donna Morris, chief people officer of Walmart, wrote in the memo distributed by the company to employees. “We know that vaccinations are our solution to bring about change. We urge you to get vaccinated and want many more of you to be vaccinated.”

In a separate memo sent to employees who work at the company’s headquarters, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wrote, “The virus is not over and the delta variant has led to an increase in infection rates in much of the U.S. “

The retailer has seen a “positive response” to the initial financial stimulus and expects the sweet benefit to elicit a similar response from employees, Pope said.

He stopped saying office workers who refused to be vaccinated would be fired, but said Walmart is working through the process. He noted that the exceptions would be those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.

When asked why frontline workers don’t need to get the vaccine, Pope said his approach has been with his large number of employees in frontline facilities “to inform, encourage, make it easy and then reward them financially for choosing it.” get a vaccine.”

Walmart said it is also implementing a new process for verifying vaccine status for US workers. It says it will share those details in the future.

To see: As CDC reverses its mask guidance, Apple, Costco, Walmart and others have some soul-searching to do

A few days after the CDC relaxed mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated people in May, Walmart, along with a slew of other retailers, said vaccinated shoppers shouldn’t wear masks in U.S. stores unless state or local government officials say. laws in other words. Walmart also said vaccinated workers could go maskless.

At the time, Walmart said customers would not be solicited, but rather would be held to an “honor system” regarding their vaccination status. Walmart employees who did not wear masks also had to confirm that they had been vaccinated by completing a daily questionnaire, although no proof was required.

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