Apple Starts Lifting In-Store Mask Mandates, Plans to Resume ‘Today at Apple’ Sessions Soon

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As the world slowly recovers from the pandemic of the last two years, Apple is showing us the light at the end of the tunnel. The company is relaxing the health rules in many of its retail stores across the country, while also noting that people will soon be able to return to stores for Today at Apple sessions as well.

According to Bloomberg, Apple told employees at most of its retail stores this week that masking will no longer be required by customers. The company has also already updated its retail store website to reflect which locations are no longer requiring masks.

Despite this new policy, Apple is still recommending that customers wear masks, and it plans to continue to provide them upon request.

Further, Apple’s retail workers will still be required to mask up for the time being, although Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman adds that this could also change in the near future.

For the most part, the change appears to line up with public health restrictions in various locations, with Apple dropping mask requirements in all stores where it’s not specifically necessary due to local laws.

Specifically, the policy change applies to stores in Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, and others that have ended mandates.

Of course, Apple has to follow the rules in states like Hawaii that still have stricter public health guidelines, but it’s also clearly trying to open things up as much as it can. For example, New York allows customers who are fully vaccinated to go maskless, and Apple’s locations in that state now reflect this policy as well.

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Today at Apple

Sources have told Bloomberg that Apple also wants to get in-person Today at Apple sessions up and running as soon as this week, well in advance of the new iPhone, iPad, and Mac announcements that are expected to come early next month.

This likely won’t happen in every store at the same time, however, as many aren’t expecting classes to begin again until March.

Apple’s Retail Roller Coaster

Over the past two years, Apple’s retail stores have been through a pretty wild ride. At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the company shuttered all of its stores outside of China — 458 of them in total. Except for the one Apple Store in South Korea, the entire chain of Apple Stores remained closed until early May, and even then, it took several more weeks before most stores opened back up again.

In those early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Apple was also remarkably cautious, proactively closing its stores, and keeping them closed even though it was costing the company billions of dollars to do so. Even as public health guidelines changed, and Apple Stores could have reopened, Apple remained hesitant, waiting for more stability before opening its doors in those areas that were hard-hit by the pandemic.

Unfortunately, even after Apple managed to get most of its stores reopened, it was faced with more big closures as the second and third waves of the pandemic swept across the world and infections spiked.

In fact, it wasn’t until March 2021 — a year after the pandemic forced all of Apple’s Stores closed — that all 270 locations were once again open at the same time. Since then, Apple Stores have mostly remained open, with closures only occurring due to actual COVID-19 outbreaks in specific stores.

However, even after Apple managed to get all of its stores back up and running, it once again faced renewed masking requirements last summer, lifting them again in the fall, and then seeing them return after the Omicron variant came along and started causing more trouble.

Still, as the two-year mark approaches, and case counts continue to drop significantly, we’re hoping this will finally be the beginning of the end, and Apple Stores can return to the more normal, busy, and happy places they once were.

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