Don't argue with anti-maskers, CDC warns stores

A mandatory face mask sign at a Walgreens Pharmacy in Miami Beach, Florida.

When in doubt, don't argue with anti-maskers.

That's the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to retail and service employees.

This week, the health agency issued new guidance to limit workplace violence that could be aimed at workers when enforcing their companies' Covid-19 safety procedures.

The procedures that retail and service businesses have been advised to implement under CDC guidelines include enforcing mask wearing, social distancing and limiting the number of customers allowed in a business at one time.

But the CDC warns that workers could be threatened or assaulted for employing these safety measures, describing violence ranging from yelling and swearing to slapping and choking the employees. The CDC has outlined a number of steps businesses can take, which include conflict-resolution training for their workers, installing security systems and identifying designated safe areas in stores employees can go to if they feel in danger.

One of the agency's biggest suggestions: "Don't argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent," the CDC says.

The guidance follows a number of violent incidents that have occurred at businesses across the country over mask-wearing requirements. Earlier this month, a man in Pennsylvania was charged with shooting at an employee after being asked to wear a mask in a cigar shop.

Last month, Walmart, Home Depot, CVS and other major stores announced they would still serve customers who refuse to wear masks.

Walmart provided its ambassadors and management with talking points for handling incidents with anti-maskers. Managers were instructed to ask customers if they'd like a complimentary mask, and if they refuse, the talking points advise letting them to continue shopping.

Although no federal law currently exists enforcing mask wearing, more than 30 states mandate that people must wear masks or face coverings in public. Retailers have especially been put in a a tough spot as safety concerns grow over how to protect employees from angry customers or workers who don't want to follow mask-wearing rules.

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