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Publix will now allow employees to wear masks, gloves to protect against COVID-19

The supermarket chain says the personal protective items are not a replacement for washing hands and social distancing efforts.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Publix grocery stores are taking another step to protect employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employees will be allowed to wear gloves and masks for as long as the national emergency lasts. While some employees are already required to wear gloves to touch food, this now paves the way for other workers like cashiers to use gloves to limit their chances of catching the virus.

The supermarket chain said it can provide gloves to associates in roles with high customer contact -- at least while supplies last.

"Inventory is already scarce, and we anticipate it to become even more limited in the very near future," Publix wrote in a statement.

RELATED: Quarantine sites open in Hillsborough County. What does it mean?

Publix will not supply masks to its workers because there are already shortages for doctors and nurses in hospitals. But, if an employee already has a mask and chooses to wear it, the grocery store will allow him or her to do so.

"Although we are providing associates the option of wearing masks and gloves for their personal comfort, it’s important to understand that all official advice from public health organizations state that washing hands frequently, maintaining social distancing, and avoiding touching of the eyes, nose, and mouth are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19," a Publix spokesperson said.

RELATED: Publix will install plexiglass to protect cashiers from COVID-19

In response to an online petition requesting hazard pay for workers, the company said it does not make business decisions based on petitions. However, in recognition of the efforts of its associates during the pandemic, Publix has announced permanent pay increases for many employees.

"Publix will accelerate merit pay reviews for associates and will offer recognition pay, an additional opportunity to increase associate pay rates for those meeting performance expectations," Publix said.

The new pay rates will take effect on April 11 and will vary based on employee performance, the grocery store chain said.

RELATED: Publix is looking to hire ‘thousands’ of employees during COVID-19 pandemic

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