Apple is again requiring customers to wear masks in all its US retail stores after it had reportedly rolled back the mandate for around half of its locations. In an email to The Verge, the company said that “amid rising cases in many communities, we now require that all customers join our team members in wearing masks while visiting our stores.”
While employees have been required to wear masks throughout most of the pandemic, customers haven’t always had to, which has led to outbreaks at some Apple stores. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also reports that some locations will have occupancy limits.
Apple’s current mask policy was reportedly enacted in early November when some retail stores dropped the requirement following increased vaccination rates and decreased infection rates. This cycle seems to be a repeat of what happened this summer — Apple started relaxing mask requirements for some stores in June but brought them back at most locations in July.
Apple is reinstating these requirements as the number of COVID infections in the US is again on the rise, even as booster shots start to become widely available.
This change also comes after a widespread outbreak was reported at an Apple store in Southlake, Texas, earlier this month. According to NBC News, 22 employees at the location tested positive for COVID following Black Friday, where some staff reported that customers (who were not required to wear masks) were packed into the store “shoulder to shoulder.”
Apple also told The Verge: “We regularly monitor conditions and we will adjust our health measures in stores to support the wellbeing of customers and employees.”