Harmons, other grocers and retailers will still require masks after statewide mandate ends

ST. GEORGE — Though Utah’s statewide mask mandate is set to lift on April 10, Utah-based grocer Harmons will continue to require employees and patrons to wear face masks. They aren’t alone in this move, as other grocery store and retail chains have announced they will do the same.

The masks-required sign inside the west entrance of the Harmon’s grocery store in St. George, Utah, March 19, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler. St. George News

In an email sent to customers Tuesday with the header “Wearing is Caring” set next the graphic of a face mask, Harmons executives Bob Harmon and Mark Jensen said, “As coronavirus restrictions begin to relax and the statewide mask mandate is scheduled to be lifted April 10, 2021, we want to reiterate our approach to keeping our associates and customers safe. For now, Harmons will maintain its current COVID-19 safety practices, including the wearing of masks.”

The executives further stated their stores will also continue to observe current COVID-19 safety practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are very proud of how far we’ve come in our efforts to keep everyone safe, and we intend to continue on that pathway,” the letter continues. “The majority of our associates have not yet had the opportunity to get vaccinated, and we will continue to focus on their safety as well as that of our customers.”

Other grocery store chains that will continue to require masks include Smith’s Market and Lin’s Fresh Market. Retailers such as Target are also maintaining their masks requirements.

Utah businesses are able to continue to enforce their in-store mask mandates under a bill signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox last week. HB 294, which has been called the “COVID-19 endgame bill” by some state lawmakers, set up the April 10 mask deadline. However, the mask mandate remains in place for groups of over 50 people.

A face mask related graphic on the Lin’s Fresh Market COVID-19 webpage as of March 19, 2021 | Graphic courtesy of Associated Retail Operations, St. George News

Associated Retail Operations (formerly Associated Foods), which operates Lin’s Fresh Market, references HB 294 on the grocery store’s website along with a plea to shoppers to continue wearing masks inside the store for now.

“ARO also feels it is imperative that masks be worn in our stores until our team and partners have had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the website states. “Team members and vendors at all Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s, Lin’s and Fresh Market stores will continue to wear masks and we urge our guests to wear masks while shopping with us.”

Kroger, which operates Smith’s, will also continue to require masks until a majority of its employees are vaccinated.

“The Kroger Family of Companies will continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our frontline grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the company stated in a press release.

Gov. Spencer Cox gestures with his mask, predicting that he would no longer need to wear one on July 4 as he spoke during a press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 25, 2021 | Screenshot from Gov. Spencer Cox Facebook page, St. George News

Kroger employees who get their recommended vaccinations are also offered a one-time payment of $100, according to the release.

In Utah, the governor announced Thursday morning that vaccinations will be made available for everyone in the state 16 years old and older stating Wednesday.

Cox supports the right of businesses to continue requiring masks, and has asked Utahns not to slack off when it comes to observing protective measures against the pandemic. He also previously asked residents to respect each other and places of business when it comes to post-April 10 in-store mask requirements.

“Don’t make a fool of yourself by yelling at a clerk …. You don’t need to be a jerk,” the governor said. “If you don’t feel comfortable, go somewhere else. Conversely, if you don’t feel comfortable with tables being closer at a restaurant, order take-out. If you don’t care about people, don’t go where people are.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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