Store associates shouldn’t have to be the mask or vaccine police
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union welcomed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidelines for mask wearing in public spaces, but says that more is needed to protect retail workers.
The union, which represents 1.3 million workers in the food and retail industry, said that all stores need to mandate that masks be worn by all shoppers and employees since current procedures have no practical way to verify if shoppers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The UFCW originally questioned the wisdom of the CDC’s guidance in May that relaxed mask requirements fearing that abuses involving unvaccinated and unmasked shoppers would put its members at risk.
The rapid spread of cases tied to the Delta variant has alarmed medical and public health professionals, particularly in areas where misinformation about the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines remains largely unchecked by scientific facts. Confirmed cases have risen substantially in recent weeks as have hospitalizations and deaths. Computer models show a continued rise in cases straight into the fall months.
Karyn Johnson-Dorsey, a personal shopper from Riverside, CA, who shops for Instacart customers as well as some private clients, told The New York Times that the end of store capacity and social distancing measures has further complicated working in stores where masks are not required.
“You have whole families who are picking out a pound of ground beef,” she told the Times. “Children who are not vaccinated because of age are touching everything, not masked, either.”
Ms. Johnson-Dorsey, who got COVID-19 last year and was vaccinated in March, should be among those least likely to be reinfected, but medical authorities point to various reasons why she and others should not be letting down their guards at this point in time.
The CDC recorded 5,914 “breakthrough” cases of COVID-19 through July 19 including 5,601 hospitalizations and 1,141 deaths. Vaccinated individuals getting the virus who suffer little or no symptoms may also spread it to others, particularly the unvaccinated, who may not be as fortunate.
Vaccine opponents often argue that those receiving shots have no reason for concern from the unvaccinated. If breakthrough cases are not enough to refute this argument, there is also the reality that the spread of the Delta and other variants may lead to further mutations that could be more highly transmissible, virulent and vaccine-resistant.
- UFCW: CDC Mask Change Not Enough to Stop COVID Delta Surge, National Mask Mandate Needed to Protect Essential Workers Still on Frontlines of Pandemic – United Food and Commercial Workers
- Workers’ Anxiety Grows as Covid Variant Casts a Shadow – The New York Times
- Hospitalized or fatal COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases reported to CDC as of July 19, 2021 – U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you support requirements for proof of COVID-19 vaccination from shoppers in order to shop unmasked in stores? If not, what do you think retailers need to do to protect associates from individuals who both refuse to get vaccinated and to wear face masks in publicly-shared spaces?