Vaccinated Publix employees had about two months to show customers their smiles.
That’s ending Monday as the Lakeland-based supermarket chain again requires all employees — regardless of vaccination status — to wear face coverings while inside any of Publix’s 1,273 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
“We encourage all to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19,” spokeswoman Maria Brous said, reflecting Publix’s statement.
The chain is not requiring its associates to be vaccinated, but encourages them to get one, she said.
Brous cited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance that recommends that people in “areas of substantial or high transmission risk” wear face coverings over their noses and mouths when in public and indoor spaces.
Florida is an “area of substantial or high transmission risk.” On Thursday, Florida recorded its fourth highest ever single-day spike in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020. Florida represents about 6.5% of the U.S. population but is accounting for about 20.4% of the country’s new cases, based on the data the state is reporting to the CDC.
Earlier this week, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava announced new mask rules for the county’s government buildings and urged businesses to also require masks indoors.
On Thursday, Miami-Dade’s “New Mask Guidance” posts on social media made no distinction between indoor and outdoor masking — but prioritizes covering up when around large crowds.
Publix is offering vaccinations for the novel coronavirus at its pharmacies and you can walk up. You don’t have to make an appointment anymore.
In May, when the CDC suggested that fully vaccinated people could remove masks, Publix followed suit. But as the delta variant surged, Publix moved to require masks as August begins.
Publix did not say whether it would require customers to wear face coverings.