H-E-B, the largest grocery chain in Texas, has reversed course and will now require rather than recommend that customers wear masks inside its stores.
H-E-B issued a statement March 5 saying customers, employees, and vendors still must put on masks even after the statewide mask mandate ends on March 10. Previously, the San Antonio-based company said it would require employees and vendors to wear masks inside stores owned by H-E-B but would only recommend shoppers do so.
The mask requirement extends to Central Market stores, owned by H-E-B.
The chain’s decision to stop demanding that shoppers put on masks angered many H-E-B loyalists. In addition, two members of the San Antonio City Council criticized H-E-B’s move during a March 4 council meeting.
“While statewide policy has changed, our store protocol has not. Mask use at our stores will remain,” the company’s statement says. “Our signs requiring mask use will remain posted at entrances, and we will continue to make announcements in store. … H-E-B has always been a strong proponent and advocate of mask use even before mandates and orders were passed.”
H-E-B says it will give masks to any customers who come to its stores without them.
“Throughout the pandemic, we are thankful that we’ve seen strong compliance with mask wearing at our stores. But we need the help of all Texans to ensure compliance continues,” the company says.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that he would remove the statewide mask mandate March 10, prompting some retailers to keep their own mask mandates in place and others to follow Abbott’s lead.
“The ending of mask ordinances puts real pressure on retailers to enforce an emotional topic for many. We ask for kindness and understanding from our customers in our expectation of them to wear masks in our stores,” says H-E-B, alluding to the fiery debate over wearing masks.
H-E-B says it realizes that some customers can’t wear masks due to certain medical conditions.
In committing once again to a full-fledged mask requirement, H-E-B also says it still adheres to the following COVID-19 protocols:
- Proper handwashing
- Plexiglass partitions
- Social distancing
“As Texans helping Texans, let’s continue to protect each other while in our stores,” H-E-B says.
H-E-B joins other large grocery stores — including Kroger, Tom Thumb/Albertsons, Aldi, and Sprouts — in requiring customers to wear masks, according to WFAA.