The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is spreading fast, and T-Mobile has now decided to reimplement face mask requirements for all employees, regardless of vaccination status.
The news comes via an internal email shared with The T-Mo Report, embedded below. In it, T-Mobile’s President of Consumer Markets, Jon Freier, says that all employees will be required to wear masks effective immediately.
Team – As you are likely well aware of, the Omicron COVID-19 variant is now the dominant strain in the United States. The public health community is learning more about Omicron real-time, but what we seem to know, at the moment, is that the Omicron variant is much more transmissible, but potentially much less severe in terms of serious illness. That said, we are monitoring hospitalizations very closely to understand the impact of the Omicron variant. From the very first moment of COVID-19, our priority has been to maintain a safe environment for our employees and customers in an effort to promote personal wellness. As we’ve navigated the environment in a pre-vaccine environment, post-vaccine environment, new variants, etc., we’ve been the leader to take decisive action to keep our employees safe. Given the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant, we will be returning to required masking for all employees from now through January 31, 2022. As we approach January 31, we can re-evaluate where we are at that time, and if we can return to our policy of vaccinated employees not being required to mask, or potentially extend the January 31 date into February as we safely get through the Omicron variant’s impact. We will be strongly encouraging customers to wear face masks, but will not take the action of requiring customers to wear masks at this time. That could potentially change, but at this moment, we’re not taking that action. We will be updating store signage and store locator messaging soon. Of course, if a local jurisdiction requires masking, we will comply and enforce that local rule. Additionally, and just as importantly, I’m asking all of our retail team members to review their physical distancing practices that include appropriate retail occupancy management. Given the higher Omicron transmissibility, ensuring we have good physical distancing practices would be smart of us as we effectively manage this next COVID-19 wave that will undoubtedly produce a high number of infections over the next several weeks across the country. Nothing is more important than our personal health and taking the necessary actions that keep our teams safe. I know we are well past the point of pandemic management fatigue. I continue to be optimistic that the pandemic will begin to transition into an endemic as we get into 2022 thanks to rising vaccination rates and other factors. Until then, we have to stay vigilant and be willing to make temporary adjustments to our pandemic management playbook to continue to keep our teams safe. I appreciate your flexibility as we make these adjustments. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you! Jon Freier
The email also states that, while highly recommended, customers will not be required to wear masks in stores at this time unless local law requires. The email states that this could change in the future. T-Mobile previously required masks for customers early this year, and ended the requirement back in June. Given how persistent Omicron appears to be, that requirement may come back.
Freier goes on to say that retail team members should review their social distancing practices given that the Omicron variant has high transmissibility. The CDC confirms this, saying that the Omicron variant “likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
According to researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, the U.S could see as many as 140 million new infections from January to March. Hospitals across the country are reaching maximum capacity. It’s clear that any efforts to slow the spread are worth it.
The changes are effective immediately in all stores across the country. The requirements will be reevaluated on January 31st, and at that point the decision will be made to either extend the mask requirements or end them.