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Costco, one of the first to require masks, drops face-covering requirement for fully vaccinated at some clubs

Costco, which was one of the first retailers to mandate shoppers wear masks, has dropped its face-covering requirement for those who are fully vaccinated.

The wholesale club said it updated its policy Friday, which is now in effect at some locations, CEO Craig Jelinek wrote in a letter to members.

Walmart, Sam’s Club and Trader Joe’s also are no longer requiring masks for fully vaccinated after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new masking guidelines Thursday.

“In Costco locations where the state or local jurisdiction does not have a mask mandate, we will allow members and guests who are fully vaccinated to enter Costco without a face mask or face shield,” CEO Craig Jelinek wrote in a letter to members Friday. 

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However, masks will still be required at all club pharmacies, optical and hearing aid departments.

Jelinek said clubs will not require proof of vaccination but that the company asks “for members’ responsible and respectful cooperation with this revised policy.”

In clubs that still have a mandate, Jelinek said the company “will follow the state or local regulations and continue to require members and guests to wear a face mask or face shield.”

Children under 2 continue to be exempt from wearing a face covering.

Costco started requiring masks in early May 2020. In November, it updated its policy to require all members, guests and employees, including those with medical conditions, to wear a face mask or a face shield.

The CDC said Thursday that fully vaccinated Americans, for the most part, no longer need to wear masks indoors and don’t have to wear masks outdoors, even in crowded spaces.

But privately-owned businesses can still require masks, which most of the nation’s largest retailers started mandating last summer. There are other exceptions for when the CDC recommends masks such as in health care settings, transportation hubs such as airports and stations, planes and public transportation.

Many retailers, including Target, CVS and Walgreens, are still evaluating the CDC guidance but say they could update policies.

“As before, our goal is to continue to provide a safe shopping environment for our members and guests and to provide a safe work environment for our employees, while following public health advice and applicable laws,” Jelinek said.

Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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