Walmart to expand store hours this weekend, give worker bonuses for COVID vaccinations

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 12,766 views 

Walmart U.S. employees work to fill orders placed online for store pickup.

Walmart said Tuesday (June 1) it will expand U.S. store hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. beginning Saturday, June 5. The exceptions will be state or local government mandates that will take precedence should they be enacted.

“When the pandemic started to hit hard early last year, we restricted our shopping hours. We said then that we would continue to stay very close to the best science and guidance around the virus and make business choices aimed at protecting the health and safety of our customers and associates. As COVID-19 cases leveled out, we expanded our closing time late last year and now, with the number of fully vaccinated Americans growing higher every day, we believe we can adjust hours once again,” said Dacona Smith, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S.

Smith said also, beginning July 3, Walmart will resume pre-COVID hours for most of its pharmacies and vision centers. He said most pharmacies will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most vision centers will be open at 9 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hours will be shorter on Saturdays and Sundays.

He said with the decrease in active COVID-19 cases in many communities around the country, Walmart is also modifying some of its other policies. Walmart has removed the 20% capacity restriction across all stores, but store leadership has been asked to monitor customer traffic during spikes in business such as holiday weekends and for weather preparations.

Smith said mask mandates have been lifted and stores can reassign their health ambassadors from the main entrance back to other roles in the store. He said following CDC guidance, fully vaccinated employees no longer need to wear a mask at work. He said local ordinances that still require masks will be followed. Walmart has also re-opened the seating area outside of the Auto Care Center while asking customers to keep social distancing in mind. The fitting rooms in supercenter locations are also now reopened.

“As customers and associates across the country continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19, there is a growing optimism that, as a country, we may soon be able to turn the page on what has been a very challenging time … it’s clear we learned a lot and used what we learned to evolve our approach to how we run our stores,” Smith said.

Walmart still encourages customers who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks or face coverings while shopping inside stores. The retailer is continuing to sanitize shopping carts in between use. The retail giant also has hand sanitizer available at the front entrance and there are sneeze guards present at all manned registers. Shoppers will remain encouraged to follow social distancing decals on the floors across stores.

“We continue to offer a COVID-19 emergency leave policy for associates. In fact, all levels of COVID-19 emergency leave are being extended through Sept. 30,” Smith said. “As a reward for becoming fully vaccinated, we are offering a one-time $75 bonus to U.S. field associates that choose to do so.”

Smith said keeping employees safe remains a top priority and the health screenings continue at each shift for employees and suppliers who work in stores. Walmart will continue to ask employees who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks at work. The break rooms and offices within stores are still following social distancing guidelines.