On about July 18, 2020 (Saturday), I was informed by a Walmart greeter I would have to wear a face mask beginning Monday, July 20, if I wished to enter the store. The spread of the COVID-19 virus was the reason given for implementing the store’s new requirement.

A large banner had previously been posted on the railing outside the entrance indicating the face covering rule. However, it was not enforced and many people were entering and exiting without wearing a mask.

The banner is still there.

The following week, July 20-25, I visited the store a couple of times and was reminded by store employees to put on a face mask, as it was now store policy.

So, I did.

While watching the evening news, Sunday, July 26, there was a brief notice that Walmart had rescinded its face mask provision. Customers could resume shopping the aisles without attaching a mask to their faces.

By my estimation, the face mask requirement had been in effect for about six days.

Thinking I’d double-check the recent announcement, I returned to Walmart on Monday, July 27. I asked the greeter if face masks were still mandated, as I had heard they weren’t.

She told me they were no longer required.

I visited the store once more on Tuesday morning, July 28, and no one said anything about a face mask. Shoppers were again entering and leaving without face coverings.

Usually, corporate decisions affecting a company’s operations are not hastily made. Normally, it takes time to implement a change, particularly if it concerns something involving the public.

Walmart is the nation’s largest retailer, operating over a thousand stores and employing tens of thousands of workers. To impose a face mask requirement on shoppers and then suddenly repeal it a few days later seems highly unusual.

Naturally, Walmart’s masking flip-flop left me wondering why? After all the time and effort of announcing and invoking a face covering mandate, what abruptly changed to inspire the company to revert back to a voluntary face mask policy?

To my way of thinking, there is at least two reasons for the sudden reversal: Employees were being intimidated by irate customers who don’t wish to wear a mask, and confusing state and local face mask regulations. As more people are discovering that wearing a mask is not really a law, but simply proclamations or suggestions by various government and health care officials. A sizeable number of citizens have, for whatever reasons, chosen not to put one on.

They may be publicly shamed for not doing so, or erroneously threatened with fines and citations, but until a state lawfully enacts legislation requiring everyone to wear a face mask, then a person is under no obligation to strap one around his/her face any more than they can be compelled to get an annual flu shot.

Regardless of what the governor or local city councils may decide, they do not have the authority to enact and enforce their own laws affecting the general public.

Maybe Walmart realizes this, and has decided to back-off; no since provoking a previously happy customer. There are always other stores to shop and spend money in.

After all this commotion is finally over, there will be an enormous demand and a lot of money to be made in the field of psychiatry and psychiatric medicine.

Mike Bibb lives in Safford

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