San Antonio, TX – As the H-E-B grocery chain announces more cases of employees testing positive for COVID-19, an online petition has emerged calling for face coverings to be mandatory for employees and shoppers.
When government officials no longer required people to wear face masks, H-E-B didn’t either. That’s prompted over 41,000 people to sign an online petition asking the San Antonio-based retailer to make masks mandatory for customers at its stores. “H-E-B, as a private company, is free to require customers to wear masks in their stores, regardless of whether state or local laws require it,” the Change.org petition states. “H-E-B needs to require shoppers to wear face-coverings if they want to shop in their stores.”
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, many Texas cities required residents to wear masks in public and places such as grocery stores, where social distancing is difficult. Gov. Greg Abbott undid that requirement when he issued an order in late April preventing local governments from fining or jailing people for not wear masks in public. At the same time, he also announced plans to allow businesses to begin reopening.
On Tuesday, as reported cases of COVID-19 continued to spike, the mayors of Texas’ largest cities asked the governor to once again require Texans to wear masks in public. H-E-B is following local ordinances and strongly encouraging customers to wear face coverings, company spokeswoman Dya Campos said. Employees and vendors are required to wear masks. “We want our customers to wear masks in our stores,” she said. “Enforcing it, without a local ordinance, is extremely difficult.”
David Spener, a sociology professor at Trinity University and long-time H-E-B customer, said he started the Change.org petition because he was concerned. He said he emailed the company before posting the petition. He was told the company would be adding signage and messaging at its stores encouraging customers to take precautions — but that it was difficult for H-E-B to enforce a mask policy without a local ordinance. “It’s not intended as an attack on H-E-B. We just want them to do the right thing by their customers, employees and the community at large.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear face coverings when around others, among other safety measures. Some studies have shown communities that required masks and implemented other prevention measures were able to slow the rate of coronavirus cases.