McDonald’s on Friday announced three major updates to its COVID-19 safety protocols, including joining the fray of large retailers and restaurants requiring customers to wear face coverings inside restaurants.
“In order to protect the safety of our employees and customers, we will ask all customers to wear face coverings when entering our US restaurants effective August 1,” the company stated. “While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it’s important we protect the safety of all employees and customers.”
The Chicago-based chain said it is also adding protective panels to the front and back of house and pausing dining room reopenings for an additional 30 days.
Citing a rise in coronavirus cases across the United States in early July, the company said it would pause dine-in reopenings for the next three weeks. At the time of that announcement, the brand has opened about 2,200 dining rooms.
The mask mandate comes as coronavirus cases across the U.S. are surging, especially among states that reopened businesses early like Texas, California and Florida. Earllier this week, President Trump endorsed mask wearing as he acknowledged that the pandemic is worsening.
Still, retailers and restaurants have faced consumers that refuse to wear masks, sparking companies like Starbucks, Walmart, Kroger, Panera Bread and Noodles & Company to formalize their policies to include mask mandates.
For McDonald’s, the new mask policy comes as advocacy groups have criticized the brand for not protecting its employees. Union group Fight for $15 claims that dozens of McDonald’s workers in 14 states have contracted COVD-19.
When asked about the number of restaurants impacted by positive coronavirus cases, McDonald’s did not immediately respond for comment.
The global burger brand, in its Friday announcement, said the intent of the mask policy is to “take a proactive approach and focus on quickly finding solutions when customers are unable or unwilling to wear a face covering.”
“In those situations where a customer declines to wear a face covering, we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way. Additionally, we will provide training for our restaurant staff to ensure they are prepared to address this new policy in a friendly and positive way,” the company stated.
To further protect employees and guests, the company said it is allowing owner/operators to add protective barriers in the back of house and front of house to increase order taking and seating capacity, as well as staffing levels.
“The panels are an additional safety measure and not a replacement for consistent PPE execution or adherence to social distancing guidelines,” the company said.
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Update: This story has been edited to include more details.