Retail orgs welcome Biden's mask-wearing order

David Salazar
Managing Editor
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With a pandemic still raging and a vaccine to distribute, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has a big task in front of him — and the retail community is making clear that it stands ready to assist — whether it's his executive order encouraging mask wearing or his plans to use pharmacies to help distribute the vaccine. 

When it comes to masking, the president made requiring masks on federal property and any transportation his executive order on Inauguration Day. The National Retail Federation applauded the move. 

“As the first industry group to call for nationwide mask-wearing, NRF appreciates the executive action today by the Biden Administration that calls for a 100-day mask-wearing challenge, including the requirement that masks be worn on federal property and on airlines, trains and transit systems that travel between states,” said Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation.” This is an important development as we turn the page on how we message and engage in the fight against the pandemic. Masks are medically proven to reduce transmission of the virus and help slow the spread of COVID-19.” 

Also on board with mask-wearing as vaccinations against the novel coronavirus begin to get administered is the Retail Industry Leaders Association. 

“Until the vaccination campaign has immunized enough Americans to stop the spread of COVID-19, common-sense tactics that promote good hygiene, responsible distancing, and wearing masks are still the best way to keep communities safe,” said RILA president Brian Dodge. He also called on the new Congress to follow up the executive action with resources for state and local governments, as well as medical systems and pharmacies, to speed up the vaccination pace. 

“These funds should be prioritized over areas where legitimate public policy differences may require additional time and debate,” he said. “America has relied on millions of retail workers to stock shelves, deliver goods, clean stores, and provide American families with everything they have needed throughout this pandemic. These frontline workers who have kept our supply chains functioning and our storefronts open need Congress to make vaccine funding their top priority.”

With regard to the vaccine, both the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the American Pharmacists Association reacted positively to then-president-elect Biden’s inclusion of pharmacies as part of his plan to get America vaccinated. FMI – The Food Industry Association, also signaled the excitement for its members to be part of the vaccination process. 

“Our 12,000 supermarket pharmacies are working fervently to get Americans vaccinated as safely and efficiently as possible while utilizing different types of vaccines,” said Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI. “As trusted healthcare providers to their customers, supermarket pharmacies already provide comprehensive immunization services and counseling to their customers. According to FMI research, supermarket pharmacies currently provide 20% of the nation’s flu vaccines. It is essential that supermarket pharmacies and the broader food industry be part of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination effort.”

Karen Lynch, currently an executive vice president at CVS Health and president of Aetna — who will become the company's next president and CEO on Feb.1 — praised President Biden’s statement prior to his inauguration, that pharmacies will play a critical role in the vaccine rollout.

“We agree with President-elect Biden that pharmacies will play a critical role in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and appreciate his leadership in the pandemic response. CVS Health has more than 90,000 trained health care professionals standing by, with the capacity to administer approximately one million shots per day through our 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations across the country once the federal program is fully activated. This will build on our success in providing vaccines to one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations, having administered more than one million shots at long-term care facilities to date," she said.

Lynch added, “We also agree that despite the growing availability of vaccines, wearing a mask, maintaining safe distances and avoiding crowds remain the best ways to slow the spread. These guidelines are based on sound science and will be critical for months to come.”

FMI’s Sarasin noted that the industry is ready to work with the new Biden administration, as well as Congress, to get the pandemic under control. 

“We look forward to working with the newly elected president, vice president and members of Congress on issues impacting the food industry — their customers and communities — and ensuring the voice of the food industry is represented authentically on Capitol Hill, to the White House, and throughout the executive branch.”