Jefferson County’s Walmart stores are subject of many complaints during pandemic

WWNY Jefferson County’s Walmart stores are subject of many complaints during pandemic

JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson County leaders say they receive an average of 10 complaints a day about the Walmart stores in the county because so few people wear masks inside.

In the past few months, more than 200 complaints have been filed with Jefferson County about violating social distancing mandates.

"A great deal of these are Walmart," said county legislature chair Scott Gray.

The complaints are about Walmart's 2 Jefferson County stores - the one near Fort Drum and the other in the town of Watertown.

Gray says people complain there are too many customers inside and that they’re too close together. And that’s not all.

"Not wearing masks. No one's ever wearing a mask. I mean the list goes on and on," said Gray.

Cheryl Hansen is a nurse from Rochester. She says her hometown Walmart will turn away customers without a mask on.

But she saw something different at the Watertown Walmart while buying groceries for her elderly mother.

"I just can't believe that half the people in the store don't wear masks," she said.

Hansen says she has spoken to management on more than one occasion.

"He said we can't mandate anything and I said, 'It's an executive order. You most certainly can,'" she said.

Warren White used to shop at the Walmart near Fort Drum.

"Every time you go in there, there are just a lot people without masks. I've asked the people, the customers, you know, why aren't you wearing a mask and I get cussed out. I ask the management about it and they say that they can't force their associates to enforce it and it wasn't their job to enforce it," he said.

White's wife is immune compromised and next week he finds out if he has cancer or not.

"Don't put me, don't put my wife, don't put my kids in jeopardy because you just don't want to do it," he said.

White's complaint went to the state.

"They think because they post signs that they don't have to require that their clientele, their customers, abide by them. They just think as long as we have the signs up that's our obligation to the public and that's not true," said Gray.

Gray says state officials are aware and Jefferson County will crack down if it has to.

"They've benefited from being open through this whole process so it may not seem real to them but we can make it real real fast if we have to," said Gray.

After we brought these concerns up with Walmart, a spokeswoman emailed us saying they are looking into the concerns and working to address them.

Walmart officials say they need customers’ cooperation to help maintain the safety of the store and adhere to health officials’ recommendations to wear face coverings in public spaces.

In a statement, Walmart officials said:

“Maintaining customer and associate safety remains our top priority. We encourage customers to be especially mindful of one another during this unprecedented time and adhere to recommendations and decisions made by local officials regarding the use of protective facial coverings while in public spaces.”

Photo shows a Walmart shopper not wearing a mask
Photo shows a Walmart shopper not wearing a mask (Source: WWNY)

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