- Starbucks wrote in a message to employees Tuesday that the company will no longer require U.S. workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing. In December, Starbucks had initially informed employees of this requirement, which would take effect on Feb. 9.
- The coffee chain is still encouraging employees to get vaccinated, boosted and disclose their vaccine status, Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote to Starbucks workers. More than 90% of Starbucks' U.S. workers have disclosed their status, and the majority of these employees are fully vaccinated, Culver said.
- This policy shift comes about a week after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine rule for large private businesses. Starbucks didn't respond to a request for comment before press time.
Though Starbucks is backing down from its most stringent COVID-19 vaccine policy, the company is still increasing precautions for employees as the omicron variant surges.
The company told employees in a separate message on Tuesday that all U.S. baristas must isolate with pay if they have been exposed to COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal reports. This escalates a previous policy that only required unvaccinated staff to isolate if they were exposed to the virus, though the chain has also reduced staff isolation periods from 10 to five days in step with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest guidance.
Starbucks is also encouraging U.S. employees to wear medical masks rather than cloth masks, and has requested store managers order these facial coverings and distribute them to workers, the Journal reports.
In addition, the coffee chain has begun cutting down hours and service levels in its U.S. locations. It's not alone in this pivot — McDonald's last week told the Journal it is trimming store hours by 10% on average at 13,000 locations as the industry contends with a labor shortage exacerbated by employee infections. Starbucks said in its message that cafe managers will continue to modify operating hours and service dependent on employee availability.
Starbucks appears to be the only major restaurant chain to change their vaccination plans in light of the Supreme Court's response to the federal vaccine mandate. It's likely that more chains will come out with disclosures that they are either sticking to existing vaccine plans or putting these requirements on hold, as several non-restaurant retailers have disclosed in the past few days.
Overall, the restaurant industry has leaned toward providing incentives to get workers vaccinated rather than requiring it, though McDonald's required U.S. corporate employees to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the fall.