‘It is just a huge relief’: Local Walmart employee reacts to new mask requirement

SPOKANE, Wash. — If you want to continue shopping in stores, you’ll need to mask up. If you choose not to, you may be out of luck.

The list of big box stores that require face masks is growing, and Walmart is the latest to put that rule in place.

Weeks ago, before any mask requirement was put into place, 4 News Now got a call into the newsroom. It was a worker at the north Spokane Walmart who said customers continued to walk through the doors mask-free during the pandemic.

But now that there’s a requirement in store – it’s made a big difference. From Costco, Starbucks, Best Buy, and now, Walmart.

Big box businesses are thinking alike. If you don’t want to wear a mask, you won’t be able to shop in their store.

It’s a new rule some employees have been desperately waiting for.

“The associates that work at Walmart are safe. But the customers that come in, we have no control of what they may be carrying or not,” said Santino Morelli, an employee at Walmart.

Morelli helps fill online orders at Walmart. All day long, he’s on the floor with customers, who sometimes didn’t wear masks.

“A lot of people would cough in their hands, and then grab a can or something. Then, if they didn’t like that item, they would put it back. You just coughed in your hands, you’re not using sanitizer or anything, and you’re touching all of our stuff. We are coming right behind you to touch that same item,” Morelli said.

But Morelli said once Walmart put the mask requirement in place, customers were overall compliant and doing their part. As someone who has asthma, that makes him feel a lot better.

“A lot of us were really uneasy about it. Now, to see people actually caring and being respectful enough to wear face masks in public – it is just a huge relief. You don’t know who you’re going to meet and what medical illness they might have themselves,” Morelli said.

Morelli said he’s seen a handful of people continue to not follow the rules. He said he hopes people will understand it’s about respect. They don’t want to get sick and it takes everyone doing their part.

“Other people are just like – oh, I can just say I have a medical reason. Or people will come in with face masks and then pull them down and do their shopping. I get the effort. But just wear the face mask. We’re doing it for multiple hours. You could at least do it for 20 minutes,” Morelli said.