SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – While several local businesses, including Target and Macy’s, have announced they will continue requiring customers to wear masks after the statewide COVID-19 restrictions are lifted March 10, H-E-B has not.
The grocery store chain earlier this week stated that employees and vendors would be required to wear masks and customers would be urged to wear them while shopping.
Councilman Manny Pelaez called the wording “vague” and asked City Manager Erik Walsh to get clarification for his constituents and H-E-B shoppers in general.
“I’m doing this with my fingers–quote unquote–‘urging’ people to wear masks, but nowhere have they said that they’re not mandating, and urging’s a really vague word,” Pelaez said at Thursday’s city council meeting. “They’re a very important partner and I just want people to know what they can expect at the doors of H-E-B.”
Councilman John Courage took it a step further.
“I’ve written to both the governor and to H-E-B about the continuing danger that we remain in because of COVID and the lack of understanding on respecting the health care of everybody in the state and everybody who uses H-E-B,” said Courage. “I’m calling them out. I’d like them to uphold the rules that they had previously had for the sake of all of us who use that facility.”
Dya Campos, H-E-B’s Director of Governmental and Public Affairs, issued a response to KTSA News, saying nothing has changed.
“We will continue to expect our customers to wear masks and to treat our Partners and each other with kindness and understanding as we all try to get through this together. The required signs will stay up,” stated Campos.
According to the mask policy on H-E-B’s website, which was updated Wednesday, March 3, the company “will continue to request and expect shoppers wear masks while in our stores.” It goes on to say that the lifting of the mask mandates “puts real pressure on retailers to enforce an emotional topic for many.” The statement also notes that some people cannot wear face coverings because of medical issues.
The policy says,”As Texans helping Texans, let’s continue to protect each other while in our stores. Let’s keep our distance. Let’s wash our hands. And let’s continue to use a mask, if not to protect yourself, to help us protect our fellow Texans as well as our dedicated Partners who have committed themselves to helping our communities throughout this pandemic and every other crisis this state has faced,”
In a videotaped interview with the Houston Chronicle this week, Scott McClelland, President of H-E-B Food Drug Division, explained why they’re not “requiring” customers to wear masks.
McClelland said in their Houston stores alone, they’ve had nearly 2,000 incidents involving disputes over masks where managers had to get involved. Some of those incidents, like the one below, have made the rounds on social media. This woman went live on Facebook at a Cedar Park store when she had a mask meltdown.
“What’s important to me is I’ve got to ensure the physical safety of both my employees and customers in the store,” said McClellan. “Of all the issues we have dealt with over the course of the last year, masks are the most polarizing,” McClelland told the Houston Chronicle. “In part, because they were used as a political weapon and in part because, frankly, people don’t like wearing masks.”
If a customer walks into an H-E-B store without a mask, they’ll be asked to put one on.
“If they don’t put the mask on, we’ll offer them a mask. If at that point they refuse to put a mask on and they become belligerent about it, we are not going to escalate,” said McClelland.
San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia told city council that businesses requiring masks have an “enforcement tool.” If someone is not following the rules and the individual refuses to leave, the business can call police or the sheriff’s office and have that person removed from the premises. The individual could be charged with criminal trespassing.
Masks will be required at city, county and federal facilities, as well as Sea World and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.