Walmart mandates one-way aisles, employees’ masks, gloves in response to coronavirus

‘They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators — which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers,’ the company said

Walmart stores updated their response to the coronavirus pandemic by creating one-way aisles to encourage social distancing and providing masks and gloves to employees, Bloomberg reported.

Stores that remain open to stock household essentials are finding it difficult to protect employees from the COVID-19 outbreak while meeting the increased demand.

»MORE: Some store shelves quickly empty, but experts say it's short term
Some Walmart locations have implemented single-direction aisles before to reduce crowds during events including Black Friday. The masks and gloves for employees are new responses to the unprecedented outbreak.

"This is voluntary, but from listening to associates, we felt that this was a necessary step, a prudent step to take," Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of public affairs, told reporters Tuesday. "This is a work in progress."

The company will distribute “high quality” masks and gloves through the coming week, starting with warehouses in the hardest-hit locations.

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"They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators — which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers," the company said.

Bartlett estimates the company will need more than 7 million masks a week.


Stores and warehouses will also take employees' temperatures at the start of shifts. Anyone with a temperature above 100 degrees will be sent home with pay, according to CNN.

Walmart’s new policies come during a wave of strikes in the public service industry.

»MORE: Whole Foods employees plan to join Amazon, Instacart in strike about coronavirus working conditions

Grocery sales are soaring, but Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart and other employees fear their health is not prioritized by their corporations.  Employees at an Amazon warehouse in New York reportedly staged a walkout Monday, with Instacart and Whole Foods following suit.

Walmart remains an industry leader, employing more than 1.5 million and hiring 50,000 more as of Tuesday night, according to the company.

Bartlett reported cashiers and shelf stockers being under higher stress than normal, with levels of absenteeism that are “manageable.”

"We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being," the company said in a news release.