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July 30, 2021, 7:51 p.m. EDT

Walmart requires that headquarters staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4, while Disney gives workers at all U.S. locations 60 days

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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart is requiring that all workers at its headquarters as well as its managers who travel within the U.S. be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 4, while Walt Disney Co. said late Friday that all U.S. employees will be required to be vaccinated.

The retailer /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.28% , based in Bentonville, Ark., is also reversing its mask policy for its employees working in stores, clubs, distribution facilities and warehouses. Going forward, they will be required to wear masks in areas with high infection rates, even if they have been vaccinated.

Coronavirus Update: CDC releases data that informed reconsideration of face masks, says delta variant of COVID means the ‘war has changed’

The moves are part of a series of sweeping measures the nation’s largest retailer and private employer announced Friday to help curb the spread of the virus and drive more of its workers to get their shots.

The vaccine mandate excludes frontline workers, who, according to the company, have a lower vaccination rate than management. But it’s hoping that managerial employees, who represent just a fraction of its 1.5 million workers, will serve as inspiration.

“We’re hoping that will influence even more of our frontline associates to become vaccinated,” Walmart spokesman Scott Pope said.

Pope declined to break out the vaccination rates for frontline workers and the rest of Walmart’s employees.

Walmart is also encouraging customers to wear masks in stores located in areas with surging cases and will be adding back signs at the entrances. It will also bring back so-called health ambassadors who will be stationed at the entrances and hand out masks.

The company is also doubling to $150 the incentive it is offering to workers in stores and clubs, as well as other facilities like distribution centers, to get the vaccine. Those who already received the $75 incentive will receive another $75 in their paychecks dated Aug. 19.

See: Vaccinations rise in some U.S. states with soaring infections

The steps come three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course on some masking guidelines , recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

Walmart’s move to require vaccinations of its workers at its headquarters follows Google’s /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +0.57% /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +0.71% steps announced earlier in the week that it’s postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened. Google’s announcement was shortly followed by Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +2.02% , which also said it will make vaccines mandatory for U.S. employees who work in offices.

Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons.

Various government agencies already have announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated, but the corporate world so far has been taking a more cautious approach, even though most lawyers believe the mandates are legal.

Delta /zigman2/quotes/200327741/composite DAL +2.21% and United Airlines /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL +2.78% are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination. Goldman Sachs /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS -0.26% and Morgan Stanley /zigman2/quotes/209104354/composite MS -0.62% are requiring their workers to disclose their vaccination status, but are not requiring staffers to be vaccinated.

However, given Walmart’s outsized influence on the economy, more companies could make similar announcements.

In fact, following Walmart’s announcement, Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -0.14% said Friday it’s requiring all salaried and nonunion hourly employees in the U.S. working at any of its sites to be fully vaccinated. It said workers who aren’t already vaccinated and are working on site will have 60 days from Friday to complete their protocols. Those who are still working from home will need to provide verification of vaccination before their return. Disney also said that all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated before starting employment.

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