AVERY COUNTY — A pair of area businesses have announced in the past week that they are requiring customers to wear face coverings in response to fighting against the spread of COVID-19.

Ingles Markets, with area stores in Newland, Spruce Pine, Boone, West Jefferson, has announced it will require customers to wear masks in all of its locations starting July 21, according to a release.

The Black Mountain-based Ingles, which operates in six southeastern states, follows major retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, CVS and Target, in requiring face coverings for customers.

Ingles representatives cited CDC recommendations regarding the role of face coverings in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in its release.

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a July 14 release. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Signs announcing the requirement will be posted at all Ingles store entrances and will also repeatedly broadcast in-store announcements, according to the release. The business also noted the requirement will not apply to young children or to customers with medical conditions who are not able to wear face coverings.

“In addition to requiring a facial covering, we are continuing our enhanced sanitation practices and regularly cleaning all high-touch surfaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the release said. “Our one-way aisles to encourage social distancing remain in place as will our Plexiglas sneeze guards.”

Lowe’s Home Improvement, with stores in Banner Elk and Boone, announced on July 17 that it is adopting a nationwide standard for all customers to wear masks or face coverings when shopping in U.S. stores effective July 20. Lowe’s will offer free masks at the customer service desk of every store for customers who need them, while supplies last.

“As a retailer offering essential goods, we have a responsibility to our associates, customers and small businesses in communities nationwide to help provide a safe shopping experience,” said Marvin R. Ellison, Lowe’s president and CEO. “Throughout this pandemic, our associates have worked tirelessly so customers could get the goods and services they needed for their homes and small businesses. For the safety of everyone in our stores, we ask that customers wear masks, and to make this new standard less restrictive, we will make masks available to those who need them.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to advise masks and face coverings are an effective tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. All Lowe’s stores will have signage at the entrances requesting that customers wear face coverings. Since the early days of the pandemic, Lowe’s has taken several operational measures to support social distancing and offer customers shopping options, including in-store pickup, curbside pickup and expanded product availability on Lowes.com, as well as a number of initiatives to encourage social distancing including overhead reminders, signage and social distance ambassadors. Lowe’s will also continue to provide hand sanitizer at store locations.

Lowe’s has required associates to wear masks since May and many Lowe’s locations operate where state and local authorities have required customers to wear masks.

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