Amazon and Walmart are no longer requiring fully vaccinated workers to wear masks unless required to do so by state or local mandates, both retailing giants told employees in separate memos.
The rollbacks come as more U.S. states lift mask mandates and COVID-19 cases linked to the Omicron variant recede.
Walmart told its roughly 1.6 million U.S. employees on Friday that those who are fully vaccinated would no longer have to cover their faces in any Walmart or Sam's Club facility, unless required by state or local ordinance. Unvaccinated workers and those in health clinics and pharmacies will still need to wear masks.
"Though vaccinated associates are no longer required to wear a mask in our facilities, we support and respect an individual's choice to continue wearing one," the retailer said in its memo.
Walmart first mandated face coverings in July of 2020, then dropped the rule for fully vaccinated workers in May 2021 before reverting back to its prior policy as infections climbed due to Omicron. The company also said its COVID-19 emergency leave policy allowing for more paid sick leave for coronavirus-related absences is lapsing at the end of March.
Walmart's move to ease its mask rules came a day after Amazon notified fully vaccinated workers that they have the option of working without a face covering. The updated policy is contingent on local regulations and "based on guidance from public health authorities as well as our own medical experts," Amazon stated.
As of Friday, only Amazon employees who've received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be entitled to paid leave due to COVID-19, and only those who are fully vaccinated will be offered the benefit as of March 18, according to the company.
Amazon in August said all workers in its warehouses would have to mask up, regardless of their vaccination status. The policy change came amid a new wave of infections linked to the Delta variant.
Multiple state governors in recent days have said they're eliminating mask mandates as virus cases and hospitalization rates fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends masking in public indoor settings in high-transmission areas, which still includes most of the country.