Walmart will begin requiring that all of its customers wear masks in its stores, starting on Monday.
The new rule from the nation’s largest retailer, with more than 5,000 stores nationwide, is a strong statement about wearing masks in public space at a time when the issue has become politicized.
In a statement, Walmart said that 65 percent of its stores, which include Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs, are in areas where there was already some form of government mandate to wear masks.
At Sam’s Clubs, the company said that it would provide complimentary masks to customers that did not already have one. (Sam’s Club customers have to pay a membership fee to shop there.)
But in Walmart stores — which are far more numerous — the details for this new policy are still being ironed out.
The company said it was creating a new job called a “health ambassador.” That person will be stationed next to the front door and will remind customers of the new rule.
“Ambassadors will receive special training to help make the process as smooth as possible for customers,’’ Walmart said, and “will work with those who show up at a store without a face covering to find a solution that works for everyone.”
The retailer did not immediately identify what those possible solutions might be or say that it would provide masks to customers who didn’t have one. Retailer workers around the country have faced heated and even violent confrontations when they remind customers to cover their faces.
Walmart joins a growing list of companies that are requiring customers to wear masks, including Starbucks and Best Buy.
Walmart’s massive reach has reshaped communities nationwide and in the past it has largely avoided publicly wading into any politicized debates. A notable exception came last year when it announced it would stop selling ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles and would discourage its customers from openly carrying guns in its stores. It also called on Congress to increase background checks and consider a new assault rifle ban.