Harveys, Winn-Dixie Reverse Stance; Masks Required Starting July 27

Jul 21, 2020

Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers is joining other supermarket chains and businesses that require customers to wear face coverings.

“Given the continued rise of positive COVID cases in our communities across the Southeast, beginning Monday, July 27, we will be requiring masks to be worn by customers to help reduce the spread of the disease,” said Southeastern Grocers spokesman Joe Caldwell in an email to WJCT News Monday evening.

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Southeastern Grocers owns and operates Harveys and Winn-Dixie supermarkets on the First Coast as well as BI-LO and Fresco y Más in other markets.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents about a million grocery workers nationwide, criticized Southeastern Grocers' managment for taking so long to mandate face coverings.

"Winn-Dixie's initial refusal to mandate masks for customers, even as COVID-19 cases skyrocket across the South, was one of the most dangerous failures of corporate leadership we have seen since this pandemic began,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone in an email to WJCT News.

Nearly 100 grocery workers across the country have died as a result of COVID-19, according to Perrone. He said another 12,000 grocery workers have been infected or exposed.

The mandate is a reversal for the chain. Last week, as other companies including CVS, Publix and Walmart were announcing mask mandates, Southeastern Grocers issued a statement saying at the time that masks would remain encouraged, but not mandatory.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

“As we have navigated through the complexities and challenges of the pandemic, we have progressively shaped our operations and are continuing to update our policies to best protect all those who depend upon us,” said Caldwell on Monday.

At the time of this story’s publication, the Florida Department of health reported there had been 360,394 COVID-19 cases in Florida and 5,072 coronavirus-related deaths of Florida residents, along with 111 additional deaths among non-residents in the state.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.