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VERIFY: Will retailers with mask policies let shoppers in with a face shield instead?

It varies based on store, but the CDC recommends prioritizing masks over shields.

With more states and retail chains requiring people to wear face masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, some wonder whether they’ll be turned away if they wear a face shield instead.

THE QUESTION

Will stores and other public places allow people to wear face shields instead of masks?

THE ANSWER

It varies. Although store policies differ, the National Retail Federation urges its membership to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which recommend masks.

WHAT WE FOUND

When asked about masks vs. shields, Mary McGinty, vice president of communications and public affairs for the National Retail Federation, responded with the advice of the CDC.

“It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings.”

The concern about face shields, the CDC says, is that they may allow respiratory droplets to escape from the openings on the bottom and at the sides. Cloth face masks do a better job of containing the droplets and reducing the spread of COVID-19, it says.

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Although the CDC doesn’t recommend face shields “for normal everyday activities” or as a substitute for cloth masks (it suggests using a cloth mask underneath a face shield), it does say face shields might be appropriate “when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin.”

However, some major retailers are stricter about masks versus shields while others, including NRF members, have policies that require “face coverings.”

At Home Depot, “we’ll require face masks or other cloth face coverings (not face shields),” chain spokeswoman Sara Gorman said. Its chain-wide policy went into effect on July 22.

Kroger, a grocery retailer with stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, recently instituted a policy that asks customers to wear masks. For shoppers who, “due to medical reasons,” can’t use a mask, the company asks that they wear “a face shield or face covering.” But for those who don’t want to use any covering, Kroger requests “they use our e-commerce services like pickup or delivery.”

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