This week, Washington-based megastore Costco announced a new policy to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Starting Monday, in addition to employees, all shoppers must wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose at all times, with the exception of kids under the age of 2 or those who are unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition. This policy applies to Costco locations across the country; there are 20 warehouses in the Puget Sound region.
Some states and cities have already implemented rules requiring employees and customers at essential businesses to wear masks, but neither Washington nor Seattle has implemented such a mandate. The state’s department of health simply recommends wearing a mask in public, but does not require it. Early in April, the department wrote that while face coverings might reduce some additional transmission, the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is through thorough hand-washing, not touching one’s face, and staying at home as much as possible. “Face coverings will not work without clean hands and good social distance,” the department said.
There are a couple of local grocers that have implemented a policy similar to Costco’s, including the Filipino market Seafood City in Tukwila, although such requirements aren’t widespread in Seattle. Several supermarket chains have implemented special hours set aside for seniors, pregnant women, and people who have compromised immune systems to shop separate from the general public.
In a statement, Costco CEO Craig Jelinek said, “Although some may disagree with this policy or question its effectiveness, we’re choosing to err on the side of safety in our shopping environments.”