Walmart’s Continued Focus on COVID-19 Precautions and Associate Support

Associate Daniel in Deli

June 1, 2021
By Dacona Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Walmart U.S.

As customers and associates across the country continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, there is a growing optimism that, as a country, we may soon be able to turn the page on what has been a very challenging time.

As I reflect on what we’ve endured and accomplished during the pandemic, it’s clear we learned a lot and used what we learned to evolve our approach to how we run our stores. As cases spiked, you saw us limit shopping hours, step up our cleaning and sanitization measures, broaden access to convenient, no-touch shopping options like pickup and delivery and restrict our entrances to one main door, where our health ambassadors could help support customers.

Many of those same policies and processes are in place today, but as the curve flattened over the last year, we felt comfortable making some careful adjustments. Some of our decisions have been to turn something on or off, while others have been more of an evolution. Our store hours would be a good example.

When the pandemic started to hit hard early last year, we restricted our shopping hours. We said then that we would continue to stay very close to the best science and guidance around the virus and make business choices aimed at protecting the health and safety of our customers and associates. As COVID-19 cases leveled out, we expanded our closing time late last year and now, with the number of fully vaccinated Americans growing higher every day, we believe we can adjust hours once again.

Starting Saturday, June 5, store hours will expand to 6 a.m.-11 p.m. unless otherwise mandated by state or local government.

Also, beginning July 3, we’ll be resuming pre-COVID hours for most of our pharmacies and vision centers. Most pharmacies will be open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, Saturday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Most vision centers will be open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and will be open on Saturday and Sunday as well.

In addition to expanded hours, we continue to carefully modify our polices and strategy. Here’s a look at some additional adjustments we’ve made the last few weeks:

  • We removed the 20% capacity restriction across all our stores. That said, we have asked store leadership to monitor customer traffic during spikes in business (holiday weekends, weather preparation, etc.).
  • Because they were primarily supporting compliance with mask mandates, those stores within an area that has lifted their mask requirements can now reassign their health ambassador from the main entrance back into another role in the store.
  • Also, based on the latest CDC guidance, fully vaccinated associates no longer need to wear a mask at work and fully vaccinated customers and members are welcome to shop without a mask. Both policies are subject to local laws and restrictions.
  • And, lastly, we added back seating to our Auto Care Center waiting areas, with social distancing in mind, as well as re-opened our fitting rooms where allowed.

Our Continued Focus on Safety

We’re delighted to be able to make these adjustments on behalf of our customers, but we know the pandemic is not over. Whether you’re picking up your items, shopping inside the store or clocked in for your shift, we remain focused on your health and safety. Here’s a look at some of the key precautions we continue to take:

Protecting our Customers:

  • We still encourage customers who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks or face coverings while shopping inside our stores.
  • Associates are sanitizing shopping carts.
  • Hand sanitizer is available at the front entrance.
  • Sneeze guards remain at all registers.
  • Social distancing decals remain on the floor.
  • Handwashing reminders are posted both on the sales floor and in restrooms.
  • Our restrooms are cleaned and stocked with supplies regularly, and we continue our stepped-up cleaning and sanitizing measures across the store.

Protecting our Associates:

  • Associate (and supplier) health screenings continue at each shift.
  • Associates who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear masks or face coverings.
  • Our breakrooms and offices remain setup for social distancing.
  • Store meetings and huddles are run with social distancing in mind.
  • We continue to offer a COVID-19 emergency leave policy for associates. In fact, all levels of COVID-19 emergency leave are being extended through September 30, 2021.
  • As a reward for becoming fully vaccinated, we are offering a one-time $75 bonus to U.S. field associates that choose to do so.

For more than a year, our associates have been nothing less than heroic, both in their ability to continue to serve customers at a high level and through their resiliency as they faced the changes in their communities and work environment. But, we know the work is not finished, and there will likely be more change to come. As a company, we will continue to maintain our focus and will remain ready to react and adjust as needed in order to ensure we are doing our very best to help keep our customers, associates and communities safe.