Amazon Becomes Largest Retailer in U.S. to End Mandatory Masks

Amazon announced on Wednesday that will it lift its mandate for workers wearing face masks inside warehouses starting Monday—except where required by law.

The workers must first verify they are fully vaccinated, the company noted in an update posted online.

In order to verify their vaccination status, workers must upload their COVID-19 vaccine information on an internal employee portal. Along with providing proof of vaccinations, employees must also be 14 or more days past their final dose of vaccines for Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose for Johnson & Johnson.

Amazon has been pushing to get employees vaccinated since March, when it began opening on-site vaccination clinics at select warehouses. CNBC noted that Amazon has said it now has clinics in more than 250 warehouses across the U.S. and Canada.

The new rule goes into effect on Monday for employees in the U.S. except where state or local regulations require workers to continue wearing masks. Amazon's website includes a list of warehouse sites where the new rule does not apply due to local laws.

The website's updated page on employee COVID protocol also noted: "All visitors must continue to wear face coverings as required by Amazon safety procedures."

The e-commerce company has been criticized in the past for not doing enough to protect its workers from the coronavirus. On February 16, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Amazon, citing what she called the company's "flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements" during the pandemic that put workers and the general public at risk. The lawsuit accused the company of improper contact tracing and poor cleaning at two New York facilities, including a Staten Island warehouse where a worker died of COVID-19.

Amazon preemptively filed its own lawsuit to try to prevent James' from filing her case. In April, James filed a motion for Amazon's suit against the state to be dismissed. Both cases are ongoing.

Amazon joins a growing number of businesses that have lifted mask requirements since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on May 13 that fully vaccinated people no long have to cover their faces indoors. Trader Joe's, Costco, Walmart, Chipotle, Target, Starbucks and Kroger are among the largest companies that have ended their mask requirements.

Meanwhile, the online retail giant added 500,000 workers around the world last year—with more than 400,000 of them in the U.S. alone—as the demand for online delivery skyrocketed during the pandemic.

Newsweek contacted Amazon for comment, but has not heard back as of press time.

Update 05/19/21 3:20 p.m. EDT, with additional information.

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Amazon announced on Wednesday that its factory workers will no longer be required to wear masks if they are fully vaccinated. Above, the company's regional headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, on October 28, 2018. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty