Publix went from barring cloth face masks to selling them online – Tampa Bay Times

April 29, 2020

Publix is now selling bright green reusable face masks with its signature “P” imprinted on the front — a stark change for a company that once forbade its employees from wearing masks during the pandemic.

In March, as COVID-19 started to spread, employees were not permitted to wear masks at all. Then Publix employees were first given paper face masks on April 8, at about the same time the store ended its policy forbidding the use of cloth face masks.

Publix on Friday started handing out a more durable and reusable cloth mask to workers for free. The company instituted a new policy on April 20, requiring all employees to wear masks while working in the store to help prevent the spread of the virus.

The policy shifted after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending the use of cloth masks or face coverings on April 3.

Related: Publix now allows certain employees to wear masks and gloves, but masks cannot be made of cloth

Soon the general public can get their own Publix-branded masks, too. The online corporate store is selling a two-pack of face masks at $15.95, or 10 masks for almost $70. The masks may not ship out until the end of May, according to the website.

Workers and shoppers can also order a green neck and face sleeve — basically a neck gaiter — that is slated to ship out in a couple weeks for $12.

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“Double-layered lightweight polyester, breathable face mask,” the mask description says. “Designed for everyday use, not medical grade. Features elastic loops to hold in place. Made in USA. Reusable and machine washable. Masks are not medical grade and have not been approved or endorsed by the CDC. Manufacturer makes no representations, express or implied, as to the efficacy of these masks against preventing the spread of any contagions.”

The online store is targeted toward employees, but open to the general public. The online store also sells green Publix slide sandals, Publix branded hair scrunchies, “Pub Sub” T-shirts and other merchandise.

The company said in a statement that it is offering different masks to employees than those it is selling online.

“Recently, Publix provided store associates with two cloth face coverings in addition to the original face covering they received,” the company said. “Publix-provided cloth face coverings for retail contain silver and copper for antimicrobial properties. They are different than what is offered at the company store.”

It’s unknown if the masks for sale are the same as the free mask given to employees. Publix did not respond to requests for comment.

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