QFC, Fred Meyer stores drop mask mandate for the fully vaccinated

SEATTLE — As we hurtle toward a possible full reopening of Washington by June 30, mask mandates -- or the efforts to drop them -- are prompting confusion among the public.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not coinciding with local policies in some cases.

The CDC says those who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, but there’s really no way to verify who has actually received the vaccine.

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Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer stores, said it was following CDC guidance and dropping the mask mandate for its stores starting May 20, except for Washington state locations.

On May 25, Kroger announced that Fred Meyer and QFC were updating their mask policy for Washington:

“Fred Meyer and QFC have updated the store mask policy so that it will align both companies to Washington State and CDC guidance. Starting May 25, fully vaccinated customers and most fully vaccinated associates no longer need to wear a mask in our facilities, including stores, distribution centers, plants and offices, unless otherwise required by local jurisdiction. If there is a local mandate, we will adhere to that requirement and its timeline.

“Non-vaccinated associates will still be required to wear a mask. Additionally, associates in our pharmacy and clinic locations will be required to continue wearing a mask due to the CDC’s guidance for healthcare settings. We request that non-vaccinated customers continue to wear a mask, and we respect the choice of individuals who prefer to continue to wear a mask,” the company stated.

The grocery stores will continue enhanced cleaning and physical distancing and offer a $100 one-time payment to employees for receiving the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Washington has also dropped its mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated, but Public Health – Seattle and King County issued a directive urging people to wear masks indoors.

The state health department says it supports rules from individual counties and businesses.

“Ultimately, we do support those communities and those businesses, those establishments that want to continue to require masks,” said Washington Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah.

A union representing grocery workers is urging retailers to not drop mask policies, saying:

“Before the new CDC mask guidance, we knew that unmasked shoppers were ignoring COVID safety measures and likely unvaccinated, so we knew to keep our distance if we were concerned. Now, it is virtually impossible to tell who is and is not vaccinated.”