SEATTLE — Costco will soon start requiring customers to wear face masks at all stores in effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
"To protect our members and employees, effective May 4, all Costco members and guests must wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth and nose at all times while at Costco," read a statement on the company's website.
The warehouse retailer said the new rule doesn't apply to children under the age of 2 or to individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition.
On Facebook, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 posted “Grocery Store Workers Demand Safer Workplaces” and “want masks to be a requirement for customers, vendors, and visitors."
Eva Johannsen works inside a grocery store in Tacoma where customers are not required to wear face coverings. She currently is not working because she said there have been cases of employees with COVID-19 at her store, and she is at high risk.
Johannsen said face masks are for everyone’s safety.
“After you leave the store, you're more than welcome to take the thing off. But you know, we are asking that we all have a little bit of consideration for people, for each other, basically, to be a little bit unselfish,” Johannsen said.
Costco has implemented numerous policies to encourage social distancing.
It was among the early adopters of setting aside early morning hours for people over the age of 60 and those with disabilities who may be at higher risk of severe complications from the virus. Other retailers have issued similar policies.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
Costco is also limiting the number of people in its stores and will only allow two people to enter per membership card, but only one per card in Kentucky and in El Paso, Texas.
The club has also removed seating from its food court areas and limited its food offerings.
Costco says it is allowing members to use their own reusable shopping bags, but the customers must pack the bags themselves. The bags are only allowed if they have not been prohibited by local mandates.
Costco is not the only U.S. company to begin requiring face coverings. On Monday, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to require coverings for all passengers from check-in to de-planing.