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Target joins list of major retailers mandating masks

FILE - In this April 6, 2020 file photo, a customer wearing a mask carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Target has joined a growing list of major retailers that will require customers at all their stores to wear face coverings. The Minneapolis, Minnesota-based discounter said Thursday, July 16, that the policy will go into effect Aug. 1.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(AP) — Target has joined a list of the nation’s largest retailers that will require customers to wear masks as cases of COVID-19 spike.

The policy will go into effect Aug. 1. More than 80% of Target’s 1,800 stores already require customers to wear masks due to local and state regulations.

Target said Thursday that it will hand out masks at entrances to those who need them.

The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced this week that masks would be mandatory in all stores starting Monday.

Starbucks, Best Buy, Kohl’s and Kroger Co. also have put mandatory face shield rules in place.

Retailers have hesitated to make masks mandatory nationwide out of fear of angering some customers over what, even in a pandemic, has become a political issue.

Mandatory masks put employees in the position of becoming enforcers and confrontations with customers have played out in multiple incidents caught on video.

It was difficult to enforce such rules even in states that mandate face masks. However, the recent surge of new virus cases — particularly in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona — has left them with no choice, retail experts say.

Retailers have been forced to fill a role that many see as the responsibility of local, state and federal agencies. Yet only about half of the U.S. states require masks in public places.

In recent days, Kentucky, Michigan and Alabama have passed statewide mandates.

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