Even when Utah lifts mandate, you’ll still need a mask to shop at grocery stores

Harmons, Smith’s, Macey’s and other retailers want employees to get vaccinations before eliminating face coverings for customers.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) A sign requiring face masks is seen at Harmons Grocery store Monday, March 8, 2021, in Salt Lake City.

Utah’s statewide mask mandate may end April 10, but keep those face coverings handy.

You will need to wear them in a variety of businesses, including most grocery stores.

Large retail companies like Smith’s Food & Drug and Target — as well as Utah-based Harmons, Macey’s and other independent grocers — have said customers still will be required to wear face coverings as a way to protect other shoppers and employees, many of whom have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

“Like you, we are excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel as vaccinations roll out and cases continue to drop,” Harmons officials told customers this week, “but we aren’t quite at the finish line yet.”

In an email from Chairman Bob Harmon and President and CEO Mark Jensen, the company said the mask policy would remain because most employees “have not yet had the opportunity to get vaccinated.”

Utah businesses are allowed to enforce mask mandates under a law passed earlier this month by the Legislature and Gov. Spencer Cox plans to sign.

On Wednesday, Cox announced that all Utahns 16 and older can start making vaccination appointments next week.

But until the certain coronavirus caseload, intensive care unit and vaccination thresholds are met, Utah will continue to have a limited mask mandate for groups larger than 50 when they can’t distance themselves from others.

It is for those reasons that Associated Retail Operations (formerly Associated Foods) will continue to require masks in the stores it operates, the company said in a statement.

“Team members and vendors at all Macey’s, Dan’s, Dick’s, Lin’s and Fresh Market stores will continue to wear masks,” the company stated, “and we urge our guests to wear masks while shopping with us.”

Kroger, which operates Smith’s in Utah, has said it also “will continue to require everyone in our stores across the country to wear masks until all our front-line grocery associates can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Employees who receive the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will get a one-time payment of $100, the company said in a news release.

Target also has said it will keep its mask requirement in place. It plans to pay hourly employees to get their vaccines and pay for Lyft rides (up to $15 each way) to get to and from their appointments.