AUSTIN, Texas - H-E-B announced Friday shoppers are still expected to wear masks while in stores. The chain also will still require all their employees and vendors to wear masks while at work.
This announcement comes days before the mask mandate in Texas is set to end. However, the CDC and local health officials continue to strongly advise the use of masks or facial coverings in public spaces.
"To help keep Texans healthy, we've had several safety protocols in place since the early days of the pandemic, and until all Texans including our Partners have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, we will continue these efforts," says the grocery chain.
H-E-B says throughout the pandemic, there has been strong compliance with mask-wearing in stores. H-E-B is asking for the help of all Texans to continue that compliance.
For those customers without masks, H-E-B says they will provide masks for them. H-E-B asks for kindness and understanding from customers in their expectation of them to wear masks in stores.
H-E-B said in a press release Friday:
"At H-E-B, our top priority is protecting the health and safety of our Partners, customers and the communities we serve. While statewide policy has changed, our store protocol has not. Mask use at our stores will remain. Our signs requiring mask use will remain posted at entrances and we will continue to make announcements in store. As Texans helping Texans, let’s continue to protect each other while in our stores. Let’s keep wearing masks, to protect yourself, our fellow Texans, and our dedicated Partners who are committed to helping our communities throughout this pandemic and every other crisis this state may face."
"With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus," said Abbott. "We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans."
Abbott noted that "COVID-19 has not disappeared" but he says "it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed."
"Now is too soon to return to normal, now is too soon to take away masking, now is too soon to forget about social distancing," said Dr. Mark Escott, the interim Medical Director and Health Authority for Austin Public Health.
In a city council briefing, Dr. Escott outlined the numbers, but he and the mayor also expressed concerns about lifting masking rules. "The danger we face by reducing those restrictions, particularly masking mandate which has really been the most effective public policy the governor has made, certainly has the potential to initiate a surge," said Escott.
Vaccination efforts remain strong in Travis County but Dr. Escott said just not enough people are inoculated, a reminder the pandemic will still be around for some time.