Grocery Chain Winn-Dixie Refuses To Require Masks In Stores: 'We Don't Want To Cause Undue Friction'

by Christina Marfice
Winn Dixie Supermarket Exterior
Jeff Greenberg/Getty

As major retailers all over the country issue mask mandates, Florida-based grocery chain Winn-Dixie says it won’t

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen major strides made when it comes to getting Americans to wear masks in public, one of the best things we can all do to help slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But as some leaders and corporations push back or refuse to issue mask mandates, cases are continuing to surge out of control in the U.S., particularly in southern states that shut down late and reopened early. And now, even as grocery stores and big-box retailers across the country are announcing that masks are required in their stores, Florida-based grocery store chain Winn-Dixie just announced the opposite: That it won’t require shoppers to wear masks.

In a statement obtained by the Today show, a spokesperson for Winn-Dixie’s parent company, Southeastern Grocers, said, “Currently, we are adhering to all local safety mandates within each of our stores and strongly encouraging those who are medically able to wear a face covering to do so.”

But the statement continued, “We do not want to cause undue friction between our customers and associates by regulating mask mandates, and we strongly encourage state officials to lead the way in regulating these type of safety mandates.”

So, in other words, Winn-Dixie isn’t going to care about the health of its customers or its communities until a state officials tells them to. Cool.

This follows a week of major retailers announcing that, regardless of state and city mandates, they’ll be requiring their shoppers to wear face coverings. Publix recently announced masks will be required beginning July 21. Walmart made a similar announcement last week. Costco and Whole Foods have been requiring masks since May. Winn-Dixie is actually in the minority here, so at least there’s that.

Florida, which is where Winn-Dixie’s parent company is headquartered, is currently one of the top coronavirus hotspots in the U.S. Total cases in the state are nearing 350,000, and doctors there warn that supplies and beds in intensive care units are starting to run out. Just three states — Florida, Texas, and California — have accounted for one-fifth of the world’s total new coronavirus cases over the last several days.

Still, though, the public reaction to mask mandates is mixed. There have been plenty of viral videos of the last few weeks of customers throwing huge tantrums in stores when they’re asked to either mask up or leave. On the other hand, a lot of people on social media have been criticizing Winn-Dixie for its decision not to require masks.

At least, as one person on Twitter pointed out, this will give the anti-maskers a place to shop so they stay out of other grocery stores.