A customer who refused to put on a mask in violation of Costco’s policy was booted from one of the warehouse store’s locations in Colorado May 16.
The customer, who identified himself as Garrett to Storyful, filmed the encounter with a store employee that led up to his expulsion from the store.
“I’ll just put you on my 3,000-follower Instagram feed,” Garrett is heard saying to the employee, who then looks directly into Garrett’s recording device and responds:
“Hi everyone. I work for Costco and I’m asking this member to put on a mask because that is our company policy,” the employee is heard saying.
“And I’m not doing it because I woke up in a free country,” Garrett says.The employee then proceeds to walk away with Garrett’s shopping cart and tells him to have a nice day.
“So you’re going to take this cart away from me?” Garrett is heard asking the employee.
The employee responds, “Sir, have a great day. You are no longer welcome in our warehouse. You need to leave. Thank you very much.”
The employee then walks away with the cart and disappears from view.
Garrett is audibly upset and defends his decision to not wear a mask and refers to those who do, as “sheep.”
“We should be moving forward as a country,” said Garrett. He claimed he had been isolating at home for the past two months and that he does not have COVID-19.
Coscto implemented their face covering policy on May 4 in order “to protect our members and employees.”
“Costco employees are required to wear face coverings, and now we are asking that Costco members do so too. We know some members may find this inconvenient or objectionable, but under the circumstances we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience. This is not simply a matter of personal choice; a face covering protects not just the wearer, but others too,” according to a statement from Coscto President and CEO, Craig Jelinek.
“Although some may disagree with this policy or question its effectiveness, we’re choosing to err on the side of safety in our shopping environments. Costco has continued to operate during this crisis as an essential business in all of our communities, and our employees are on the front lines. As part of a community, we believe this simple act of safety and courtesy is one that Costco members and employees can undertake together.”
The decision to wear a mask in public is becoming a political statement — a moment to pick sides in a brewing culture war over containing the coronavirus.
While not yet as loaded as a “Make America Great Again” hat, the mask is increasingly a visual shorthand for the debate pitting those willing to follow health officials' guidance and cover their faces against those who feel it violates their freedom or buys into a threat they think is overblown.
That resistance is fueled by some of the same people who object to other virus restrictions. The push back has been stoked by President Donald Trump — he didn't wear a mask during an appearance at a facility making them — and some other Republicans, who have flouted rules and questioned the value of masks. It's a development that has worried experts as Americans are increasingly returning to public spaces.
“There’s such a strong culture of individualism that, even if it’s going to help protect them, people don’t want the government telling them what to do,” said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech engineering professor with experience in airborne transmission of viruses.Inconclusive science and shifting federal guidance have muddied the political debate. Health officials initially said wearing masks was unnecessary, especially amid a shortage of protective materials. But last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending wearing cloth masks in crowded public situations to prevent transmitting the virus.
“We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (‘asymptomatic’) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (‘pre-symptomatic’) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms,“ the CDC wrote on its website.
”This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.“
The Associated Press and Storyful contributed to this report.