(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. will drop its mask requirement for customers at many of its U.S. retail stores starting Friday on declining Covid-19 cases and increased vaccinations.
The change will take place beginning at more than 100 of the company’s about 270 stores across the U.S. before gradually expanding to additional stores in the coming days. The mandate will be removed at some stores in states including California, Florida, Arizona, New York, Louisiana, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The new mask policy was announced in an internal memo to Apple retail employees Thursday that was obtained by Bloomberg News. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
“After careful review, the Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) team, along with leadership, have determined it’s safe to update our guidance on masks for customers in your store,” according to the memo. “The positive trends in vaccinations, testing, and case counts for your area have made this change possible.” The new policy will apply to customers regardless of vaccination status.
The mask mandate will continue for Apple retail employees. “Team members have longer interactions in store and are in close proximity throughout the day,” according to the memo. The mandate will also continue in regions, such as Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, where local governments still require masks indoors.
“The health and safety of our teams and customers remains our highest priority,” Apple also told staff. “We will continue to monitor local guidance and Covid data in your area throughout the holiday season, and make adjustments as needed.”
Apple has changed its mask policy depending on the circumstances of the pandemic. In June, the company dropped the mask requirement at many U.S. stores, only to restore it in July on rising cases.
Apple has been gradually trying to push its operations back to pre-pandemic routines. The company is encouraging workers to get vaccinated by requiring corporate employees who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 to receive daily rapid tests for the virus. The company is also planning to require staff to return to the office as early as January for at least three days per week.
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