'Retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence frontline employees are experiencing by a vocal minority'
Two customers who refused to wear a mask inside a Walmart store were arrested for allegedly coughing on employees before attempting to escape from the authorities.
Police apprehended Frank Montoya, 38, and Victoria Parra Carranza, 23, of Yuma, Arizona in the US, after the couple allegedly confronted store employees and coughed on them on purpose. It is still unclear, however, whether the customers were infected with COVID-19.
Walmart officials called in the police to escort Montoya and Parra Carranza out of the store, but the couple resisted the authorities.
“While attempting to stop Montoya and Parra Carranza to identify them and give them an official trespass, both refused and Montoya became confrontational. The officer attempted to stop Montoya from leaving, but he fled on foot,” the Yuma Police Department said.
Police chased Montoya, who became combative with the arresting officers. Parra Carranza also tried to interfere with the arrest and fought with police.
Both have been taken into custody and are facing “multiple charges,” including aggravated assault and disorderly conduct among other allegations, police said.
On July 9, Walmart began requiring shoppers to wear a face mask inside store premises in an effort to stem the tide of COVID-19 infections. Other retailers are doing the same.
The US has been seeing record numbers of new cases over the past two weeks, on some days breaching 50,000 to 60,000 in a span of 24 hours. The surge in the number of coronavirus infections has prompted some establishments to enforce stricter health and safety policies for both their customers and employees.
The changes have been met with resistance, however. Footage of customers confronting frontline workers, throwing items off the shelves and being escorted out of shops have recently gone viral.
US retail companies such as Walmart, Home Depot, Target and Walgreens are asking governors to come out with a unified policy for the entire country which requires people to wear face masks in public spaces at all times.
“Retailers are alarmed with the instances of hostility and violence frontline employees are experiencing by a vocal minority of customers who are under the misguided impression that wearing a mask is a violation of their civil liberties,” wrote Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, in a letter to the National Governors Association.
“Given the troubling incidents we have all seen on social media involving aggressive customers refusing to wear a mask, we strongly recommend store employees not be charged with primary enforcement of mask mandates and that retailers not be fined for a customer’s non-compliance,” Dodge said.