Best Buy to require customers to wear masks amid virus spike

NEW YORK — Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its stores nationwide, even in states or localities that don’t require them to do so.

The retailer, based in Richfield, Minnesota, joins a growing but still short list of major retailers that have instituted mask mandates throughout their chains. Starbucks announced last week that customers who visit its company-owned café locations in the U.S. will be required to wear face coverings. The policy will be in effect on Wednesday as well.

Best Buy Co. said Tuesday it will provide a face covering if a customer doesn’t have one, and small children and those unable to wear one for health reasons may enter without one. It said that customers who have concerns about wearing mask will be able to shop Best Buy via its website and app and choose home delivery or contactless curbside pickup, which remains in place at all its stores.

The moves come as new COVID-19 cases are spiking in many states, particularly Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Retailers have been challenged with striking a balance between keeping shoppers safe while making them feel comfortable.

Last week, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Best Buy as well as Target, and other major chains, publicized publicized a letter it sent to state governors to mandate store customers to wear face coverings. It said the hodgepodge of rules around the country have created confusion for shoppers and that has lead to conflict between customers and workers trying to enforce store rules.

The National Governors Association said last week that its members are discussing the letter and others like it from different retail groups.

Social media is full of videos capturing clashes between those who are asked to wear masks, and employees who are under orders to make sure people wear them.

Fewer than half of U.S. states require masks in public places, according to the RILA. And only a handful of major retailers including teen clothing chain American Eagle Outfitters has a mask mandate for customers for all of its stores. Costco Wholesale Club was one of the first major retailers to require face coverings for customers at all of its stores. The policy became effective in early May.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people cover their mouth and nose when around other people to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

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