Albertsons will continue to require Texas shoppers to wear masks in its stores after the state lifts its face covering requirement March 10.
The retailer, which also operates under the Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets and Market Street banners, reversed a decision it shared earlier in the week to "encourage" masks for customers when the state mandate ends. Masks will still be required.
"While we know that mask requirements have been controversial and polarizing across some of our operating areas, we also know that masks in combination with social distancing and proper cleaning and sanitization can work to prevent the spread of the virus," the company said in a statement to USA TODAY Friday.
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift the requirement and "open Texas 100%" to full capacity on March 10 conflicts with safety protocols at many businesses.
Even as some states roll back mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic, some of the nation's largest retailers including Kroger, Macy's, Starbucks and Target, confirmed to USA TODAY that they are not rolling back theirs.
Some businesses say they will continue to abide by guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shield their frontline workers from exposure to COVID-19. Only health care workers, people over 65 and adults with preexisting conditions are currently eligible for vaccines in Texas.
"Although the State mandate will be lifted effective March 10, 2021, our front line associates have not had full access to the vaccine," Albertsons' statement said. "We will continue to look to the CDC's recommendations to determine our safety practices and look forward to the vaccine being readily available not only to front line teams but to the general population in the coming months."
This is not the first time a retailer has reversed a mask requirement.
Dollar Tree and Family Dollar started requiring masks in early July but soon after changed the policy to "request" face coverings in stores where state and local ordinances were not in effect. The two retailers, both part of Dollar Tree Inc., then reversed the decision again to require masks.
Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, BI-LO and Harveys Supermarkets, started requiring masks July 27 after previously announcing its stores weren't mandating face coverings during the pandemic to avoid "undue friction" between customers and staffers.
Mask requirements vary from state to state, city to city and store to store, confusing customers and escalating tensions.
Skirmishes between unmasked customers and retail staff and security guards in Texas surfaced online this week. Last year a security guard was shot and killed in a dispute at a Family Dollar in Flint, Michigan.
Contributing: Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas lifts mask mandate but Albertsons will still require masks