Starbucks, Trader Joe's, Target and other retailers drop mask requirements

After the CDC issued guidance that vaccinated Americans can go (mostly) maskless, we made a list of a few major stores, and some states, that have followed suit.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Reporter
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement last week that said vaccinated people are safe to go without a mask in most cases, with the exceptions of public transportation, health care settings and where local and state laws dictate otherwise. This new guidance has been met with backlash from some experts who think the CDC's latest statement will backfire and promote dishonesty, but it's also been cause for celebration among some who embrace the benefits of effective vaccines and see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. 

After the guidance was announced, some major retailers reversed mask mandates that have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, saying vaccinated folks are free to do business sans masks. Some states followed suit, shifting the mask mandate from "required" to "suggested" or getting rid of it all together. Below, we round up the states and some major retailers that have changed rules when it comes to masks.

Stores that no longer require masks 

The elephant in the mask-free room is the fact that businesses that lift the facial-covering mandate for vaccinated customers will likely have no way to prove everyone who shows up without a mask has actually received a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, stores that have lifted corporate mask rules still must abide by local and state laws. Below are a few of the big businesses that have changed policy.

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The Seattle-based coffee chain recently announced that starting May 17, facial coverings will be "optional" for customers who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Some Starbucks locations may still be closed for indoor dining. The public restrooms will also be closed at those locations, according to the company's website.

Walmart/Sam's Club

One of the biggest retailers in the US has rescinded its mask requirement, stating in a corporate memo that vaccinated Walmart customers and Sam's Club members are free to shop without a mask. Unvaccinated customers will still be asked to wear a mask, and store signs will be updated to reflect this new rule.

The retail giant is also waiving the mask requirement for its fully vaccinated employees, and starting May 18, vaccinated associates who show proof of vaccination can opt out of facial coverings and will also have an extra $75 added to their paycheck (one time).

Trader Joe's 

The German-owned grocery chain known for its approachable environment was one of the first chains to make an announcement enforcing the newest CDC guidance on masks, including no longer requiring vaccinated customers to wear them in stores. However, as of May 17, the announcement made on the company's COVID-19 page could not be accessed. 

The New York Times reported that Trader Joe's will not require proof of vaccination from its customers. 


Although the CDC changed its mask guidance, some vaccinated people may choose to keep wearing theirs in public. People with compromised immune systems, and those taking certain medications, may not be as protected from COVID-19 even when fully vaccinated. 

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On May 17, Target issued a statement following the CDC guidance change and said it will no longer require fully vaccinated customers and employees to wear a facial covering, but masks will continue to be "strongly recommended" to unvaccinated customers and staff. Many Target locations offer COVID-19 vaccines because of its partnership with CVS pharmacy, the next store on this list. 

Target, headquartered in Minneapolis, said it will offer employees Lyft reimbursements of up to $15 each way to and from vaccine appointments. 


Effective May 17, CVS Pharmacy will no longer require customers to wear masks while shopping at the convenience shop and pharmacy. 


Fully vaccinated Costco members no longer need masks while shopping, except where city or state laws dictate otherwise. The announcement was written by Costco Wholesale's president and released May 14. 

Home Depot 

In a statement to ABC4, a spokesperson for the home improvement store said it will not be requiring face masks for vaccinated customers, and encouraging face masks for unvaccinated customers. 

"As we've said throughout the pandemic, our focus is on the health and safety of our associates and customers, and we continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the spokesperson said.

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States that no longer require masks

Laws requiring masks trump an individual retailer's rule on facial coverings. Per the CDC, the newest guidance is only applicable in cities and areas that don't require masks. Here are a few states who have recently made their mask requirement an option for vaccinated citizens. 

New York

New York City was one of the first epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, and one of the first territories to issue restrictive public health measures. On May 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted: "Effective Wednesday, NYS will adopt the CDC's new mask and social distancing guidance for vaccinated people," meaning vaccinated people will no longer be required to wear masks in public unless a private business asks them to, they're using public transportation or they're part of another exception listed by the CDC.

Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks in New York. The Hill reported that about 52% of New York adults are fully vaccinated, with around 62% of adults having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. 


On May 14, Gov. Jared Polis revoked the state's mask order, which had been in effect since July last year. "We are going from mask-wearing requirements to mask-wearing suggestions and guidance," Polis said at a news conference. 

Unvaccinated people over age 11 are "encouraged to continue wearing masks" indoors. Unvaccinated state employees, like those who work at the Department of Motor Vehicles or in jails, prisons or nursing home facilities, are specifically required in the new state guidance to continue wearing masks.


This state's mask mandate will end June 11. Gov. Andy Beshear made the announcement on May 13, stating in an executive order that fully vaccinated Kentuckians don't need to wear a mask except while in school or in a situation that exempts them from this rule as previously outlined by the CDC. 


Those from the Old Line State don't need a mask anymore: Gov. Larry Hogan changed the state's mask law on May 14. A little more than 65% of adults in Maryland have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine, the Baltimore Sun reported


While changing the mask mandate for the vaccinated general public, many states keep mask requirements in classrooms. Texas, though, specifically prohibits school districts from enforcing mask mandates. 

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The state known for its lakes followed suit May 14 and overturned the need for a mask in vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated folks are "strongly recommended" to wear face coverings indoors. 

North Carolina

The state decided to follow the CDC's guidance and lifted limits on gatherings, overturned a mask mandate and got rid of social distancing requirements on May 14. 


On June 2, Ohio's mask mandate will expire. Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement on May 14, one day after the CDC issued its guidance for the fully vaccinated.

Rhode Island

On May 18, Rhode Island lifted its mask mandate for vaccinated people but kept it in place for schools, the Providence Journal reported. On May 21, the state lifted many other COVID-19 restrictions, including those on restaurant and gym capacities. 


Texas takes the CDC's leeway for vaccinated people further. On May 18, Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order that prohibits government bodies in the state from requiring face masks. The order prohibits all cities, counties, public health authorities and school districts from enforcing individual mask mandates. 


The state adopted the CDC's recommendations and exceptions for the fully vaccinated. 


Gov. Ralph Northam announced the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place will either expire or ease on May 28, taking the CDC's guidance on vaccination and mask requirements. 

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The state will overturn the mask mandate for fully vaccinated citizens, but allow businesses to require that customers wear them (like other states). 

West Virginia

Gov. Jim Justice announced West Virginia will follow in the CDC's footsteps and remove the mask requirement for fully vaccinated people. This new order won't go into effect till June 20

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.