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You’ve probably noticed the growing number of COVID-19 variants hitting the United States from Alpha, to Delta, to Lambda – and Apple has certainly noticed, too. Now, the company is responding by bringing back mask requirements in a large number of its U.S. stores.
As COVID variants rise, 97% of those who are hospitalized are unvaccinated, and of those dying, around 99.5% are unvaccinated. Those getting sick simply haven’t had their shots yet – but Apple’s problem is that it’s very hard to tell who has been vaxxed and who hasn’t.
Apple could stop everyone outside the store and ask to see a COVID vaccine card, but people often respond poorly and the flimsy cardboard vaccine cards are being frequently faked.
One response from the federal government has been to require federal employees to be vaccinated, but Apple hasn’t yet required vaccinations for its own employees, and certainly won’t do so for customers. Its latest response to growing COVID numbers is to reinstate mask requirements inside its stores (a move previously ended back in June).
Beginning July 29, face masks will be required for all Apple team members and in-store customers, regardless of vaccine status.
It’s not entirely clear how many stores Apple will be sending this regulation change to. It could be that some stores will be unaffected, or that Apple will focus the requirement in regions where variants are on the rise and vaccination numbers are low. More details are sure to follow in the coming days as it becomes clear who is affected.
While Apple has always had a proactive stance when it comes to COVID-19 regulations, it’s not the only company taking new steps to deal with the variants and problems with vaccination numbers. Google has recently announced that all its employees must be vaccinated before returning to the office, and is requiring a full return by mid-October, essentially setting a vaccination deadline for its workers.