Gap Inc. mask mandate to cover Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix and Janie & Jack stores

Gap Inc. has announced it will be requiring customers to wear masks while shopping in stores starting Aug. 1.

Like many businesses and restaurants, the clothing store giant has adopted a mask mandate amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in many states in the U.S.

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“Given the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the US and Canada, we want to do everything we can to help stop the spread of the virus,” according to a Gap news release. “That’s why we are adjusting our current policy and requiring all customers to wear masks in all of our North America Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, Intermix and Janie and Jack stores.”

Employees have already been required to wear masks while on duty, according to the news release. The policy will exempt small children and people with underlying health conditions from wearing a facial covering.

“We will be offering disposable masks to customers who need them and ask that our customers join us in helping to protect our communities and create an enjoyable and safe shopping experience for all,” the news release continued.

The company also reminded customers that as an alternative to physically shopping in-stores, options for curbside pickup as well as online shopping are still available.

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"We’re all in this together. And we can’t thank our teams and customers enough for all they do to help keep each other and our communities safe,“ the news release concluded.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants, as well as essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies, required their employees and shoppers to wear masks, but some have been met with pushback from customers.

Stores such as Costco, Walmart and Home Depot have seen their fair share of resistant shoppers.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an interview on July 14 that if all Americans wore a mask, it could bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control in weeks.

“I think the data is clearly there, that masking works — whether it’s a face covering, whether it’s a simple surgical mask,” Redfield said.

Redfield spoke in a recent interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) regarding an editorial piece he had contributed to in the medical publication. The editorial, titled, “Universal Masking to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission—The Time Is Now” commented on various studies.

The CDC director said if the American public embraced masking now and did it rigorously, the U.S. could see relatively swift changes in the trajectory of the pandemic.

“If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think over the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control,” Redfield said.

Redfield mentioned that he was “sad” to see the public health issue becoming politicized.

“Masking is not a political issue, it’s a public health issue. It really is a public responsibility for all of us,” Redfield said.

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According to a widely-cited coronavirus pandemic model used by the White House, if almost everyone wears a mask in public over the next few months, tens of thousands of lives could be saved in the United States.

The projections, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, compared different actions to control the spread of COVID-19.

"People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk," IHME said in a statement.

CDC guidelines outline emerging evidence as to the effectiveness of wearing a face covering while out in public amid the ongoing pandemic.

Several studies have been cited on the CDC’s mask guidelines stating that wearing a face covering will greatly reduce the risk of coming in contact with respiratory droplets, which have played a major role in the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC website.

In early July, at the behest of medical professionals and scientists, the World Health Organization also updated their website to include emerging evidence that COVID-19 has the potential to be airborne in some cases.

“We acknowledge that there is emerging evidence in this field, as in all other fields regarding the COVID-19 virus and pandemic, and therefore we believe that we have to be open to this evidence and understand its implications regarding the modes of transmissions and regarding the precautions that need to be taken,” Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, WHO's technical lead for infection prevention and control, said at a July 7 press conference.

Stephanie Weaver and FOX News contributed to this report.