CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As Gov. Greg Abbott announced his intention to end Texas' statewide mask mandate last week, residents turned to H-E-B -- the state's largest grocery chain and a frequent leader in disaster response -- for guidance.
I move that we remove Gov. Abbott and suspend all gubernatorial operations, and just let HEB run the state of Texas.— Wizard of Ahhhhhhhhhs (@gee_slim) March 4, 2021
The store announced March 2 that it would urge customers to continue using a mask, while requiring it for employees and vendors, causing swift basklash from its fans.
Hi, Jared. H-E-B strongly encourages the use masks and requires it for all Partners and vendors. We ask that all our customers please wear masks in our stores. To protect the safety of our Partners, we will not engage in confrontation.— H-E-B (@HEB) March 2, 2021
That decision was reversed March 5, but a Facebook call to action called "Call on Corporate" still went ahead on Tuesday, intent on rallying Texas Facebook users to call H-E-B corporate offices to voice their displeasure with the company.
"H-E-B's mask recommendation in lieu of a requirement will harm workers, shoppers and communities," the event page states. "Join us on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 as we call on corporate and tell them how we feel about their new rule...or lack of."
The confusion between the two sides seems to stem from the company's use of the word "expectation," which event organizers read as a suggestion for contined mask use in the stores.
In its release, H-E-B states that it is not, underlining and bold-facing the sentence "Mask use at our stores will remain."
It also cited is reliance on health officials' advice on the importance of the mask-wearing, and acknowledged that the topic is one that stokes passion in many people.
"The ending of mask ordinances puts real pressure on retailers to enforce an emotional topic for many," it reads. "We ask for kindness and understanding from our customers in our expectation of them to wear masks in our stores."
H-E-B also leaned on its reputation as one of the first companies requiring mask use before the state's mandate was enacted.
"H-E-B has always been a strong proponent and advocate of mask use even before mandates and orders were passed," it reads. "To help keep Texans healthy, we’ve had several safety protocols in place since the early days of the pandemic, and until all Texans including our Partners have access to the Covid-19 vaccine, we will continue these efforts."