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Masks No Longer Required: Local Businesses, Major Retailers Begin Shift

Face masks are required at the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center in Louisville's Russell neighborhood.
Face masks are required at the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center in Louisville's Russell neighborhood.

With less than a month until Kentucky’s mask mandate expires, some local business owners are already easing requirements at their establishments.

Take Garwood Linton, the owner of Red Tree Furniture, which has locations in NuLu and the East End shopping center Paddocks Shops. He took down “masks required” signs on Saturday, days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most indoor locations.

“We were busy in the store, and I walked in without a mask and I walked around, and everybody had their masks on,” he said. “So I felt like an oddball.”

Linton, who is vaccinated, wore a mask the rest of that day and continues to wear one. He said the plan is to let patrons and employees decide whether they want to wear masks. So far, customers continue to wear masks in his stores.

“We've almost become a culture of mask wearing, and it's almost instinct just to grab your mask when you run out the door and put it on when you go in someplace,” he said.

He acknowledged there’s no way for employees to verify if someone who comes in without a mask is vaccinated. Regardless, they will continue to let shoppers and workers choose to mask or not, even though Beshear is keeping the statewide mask mandate in place until June 11. That’s also when the governor said he’ll lift capacity restrictions.

Linton said he doesn’t expect either change to impact his business much, but he’s curious to see how many people will continue masking after the state stops requiring it. He said he’s ready to be done with masks but realizes others don’t necessarily share that feeling.

“If they want to wear their masks, we'll respect them,” Linton said. “If they don't, we'll respect them.”

Major Retailers No Longer Requiring Masks

While local and small businesses may still be figuring out when and if to back off requiring masks, a number of national retailers have already taken that step. Stores in states like Kentucky, where the mask mandate is still in effect, are expected to continue enforcing that policy until it expires. Here is a list of some companies with Louisville locations that are changing their mask policies:

  • Walmart will no longer require masks for fully vaccinated employees and patrons.
  • Trader Joe’s customers who are fully vaccinated may still need to wear masks if required by local rules, according to USA Today.
  • ALDI will not require face coverings for vaccinated shoppers and will allow vaccinated employees to forego them later this month.
  • Costco will not require masks or face shields for vaccinated shoppers, except in “healthcare settings, including Pharmacy, Optical, Hearing Aid.”
  • Meijer will not require fully vaccinated customers to wear masks, “where allowed under state law,” a spokesperson said. Employees must continue to mask.
  • Home Depot will allow fully vaccinated customers and associates to go mask-free.
  • Target will let fully vaccinated customers and employees be in stores without masks.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Linton's last name.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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