The policy went into effect on April 14 and aims to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

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PANAMA CITY BEACH — The Fresh Market is now requiring that all guests wear some sort of face covering.


According to Meghan Flynn, spokeswoman for the grocery store chain, the policy went into effect on April 14 and aims to tackle the spread of the COVID-19 virus.


She added that the decision came at the heels of information recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which advises that everyone should wear a cloth face covering when entering a public settings.


“Since the beginning (of the pandemic), we have said that our number one priority is the safety of our team members and guests,” said Flynn, who added that employees were already mandated to wear masks before the new policy. “If we’re doing this for the safety of our team members ... in that same spirit, we should require all guests to wear face coverings as well.”


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For the most part, guests have been supportive, Flynn said. However, a small handful of people still don’t see the need for the additional protection.


She added that this is especially dangerous since new information from the CDC says that roughly 25% of people who have the coronavirus are asymptomatic.


“It doesn’t have to be a mask,” she said. “It could be a bandanna, it could be a scarf.”


“... A certain part of this whole thing is a person’s individual responsibility,” she added. “The last thing that we’re going to do is drag someone out of our store because they’re not wearing a face covering.”


The Fresh Market’s corporate office is located in North Carolina. The brand has nearly 160 stores across 22 states. Flynn added that they also offer reserved shopping hours everyday from 8-9 a.m. for those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus.


“If we didn’t make it a requirement, nobody would take this seriously,” she said. “If it was a suggestion, I don’t think anybody would be doing it.


“We’re all in this together, (and this policy) is for the benefit of the community.”