PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — New concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are growing across Western Pennsylvania and Giant Eagle is taking action to help slow the spread of the virus.
Giant Eagle announced Monday that its employees will again be required to wear masks, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 or not. The company will also request customers start wearing masks inside stores again.
“For our team members, it’s about protecting one another and protecting our guests,” said Giant Eagle Spokesperson Dan Donovan.
In a statement, the company says it has noticed the increase in positive cases of COVID-19, and is bringing back a mask policy as a result, adding that safety is a top priority.
“We really saw a need and opportunity and responsibility for Giant Eagle to take a leadership position again and enforce mask-wearing and keep our folks safe,” said Donovan.
Starting tomorrow, workers will be required to wear a face covering. Beginning Friday, shoppers will be strongly requested to wear a face covering.
At the McIntyre Square Giant Eagle in the North Hills Tuesday, it was a sign of the times. Some people had masks on others did not.
“I will never wear a mask again,” Lori Walker said before heading in.
This all comes as multiple counties in the area have been designated with a “substantial” level of spread of COVID-19, meaning that the CDC recommends individuals wear masks inside buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
As of Tuesday evening, counties that fall into the “substantial” category in our area include Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Washington, Westmoreland, Indiana and Somerset.
“It seemed odd to have cases going up and restrictions going down at the same time,” Jeannine Fontaine said after her shopping trip.
Giant Eagle says it will increase resources to educate employees about being vaccinated over the next week.
“It just seems like it’s determined to stay. The virus has its own ideas,” Fontaine said.
Some customers KDKA’s Amy Wadas spoke to say they’re on board with the changes.
“It’s up to everybody, but at this point, I would want people to be more careful,” said customer Romina Quillia.
“I believe that’s the science and we have to do it,” said Phil Buchwalter.
WATCH: KDKA’s Chris Hoffman Reports
It’s a trend nationwide. Home Depot said it will not require employees to wear a mask no matter vaccination status while only asking customers to wear one. Target is now requiring face masks for employees in counties where there’s substantial to high spread of COVID-19. Guests will be strongly recommended to wear one.
“Two of my kids had it. They’ve had worse colds,” Walker said.
“It’s really not a big deal. People have made a big fuss over masks. They’re really not a big deal,” Fontaine said.
Another local grocery store chain, Kuhn’s Market, said it’s asking customers to wear one but it’s not required.
The substantial spread in Allegheny County is one of the reasons why the owner of Mon Aimee Chocolat in the Strip District decided on Sunday to re-implement mandated mask wearing for both employees and customers.
“We are getting busier in the Strip and numbers are going up,” said owner Amy Rosenfield. “It’s not fun to wear them, especially when unloading a truck of 4,000 pounds of chocolate, but at the same time, it’s not that much of a hardship to wear masks.”
Other local retailers like Yinzers said they’re thinking of issuing a mask mandate by the end of the week, so they’re getting ready now.
“We just ordered a substantial amount of masks just to cover ourselves,” said Yinzers owner Jim Coen.
Health officials are blaming surging cases on the more contagious delta variant and unvaccinated Americans.
“If you get sick with the Delta variant, we estimate you could infect about five other unvaccinated people – more than twice as many as the original strain,” said Dr. Rochelle Walesnky, director of the CDC.