Apple reportedly lifted mask requirements at more than 100 of its 270 U.S. stores starting last Friday due to declining COVID-19 cases and climbing vaccination rates.

“The positive trends in vaccinations, testing, and case counts for your area have made this change possible,” according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg. Presently, 68 percent of those 12-and-up in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.

Apple’s requirements will be the same for vaccinated and unvaccinated customers. Masks will still be required for Apple associates. The memo explained, “Team members have longer interactions in store and are in close proximity throughout the day.”

Stores will also continue to follow local mandates for masking indoors. Apple will “continue to monitor local guidance and COVID data” and may make adjustments.

Apple has taken a more cautious approach than most retailers during the pandemic, becoming one of the first to close stores at the start and restarting openings in May 2020 with only a few locations at limited capacity and with mask requirements and temperature checks. The majority of stores initially only offered curbside pickup.

By March 2021, Apple had reopened all of its stores and eased mask requirements in June. Most retailers had quickly dropped mask guidelines for fully vaccinated customers in May, following the release of updated guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC).

In late July, Apple became the only major retailer to reinstate mask requirements after the CDC recommended vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmissions as the Delta variant continued to spread.

McDonald’s at the time also again began requiring customers and employees to wear masks again at U.S. restaurants in areas with high or substantial transmission risk.

Most businesses, however, including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Starbucks, shifted to only requiring employees to wear masks, while strongly encouraging or recommending customers wear them. Some retailers require masks for unvaccinated customers and employees.

On October 22, CDC officials indicated they were not planning to change their guidelines, despite declines in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, as transmission rates across the country remain high or substantial in over 90 percent of counties. As of Sunday, CDC data showed 71 percent of counties showing high and 17 percent showing substantial transmission risk.


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