Face masks are mandatory at Walmart, Target and a growing number of retailers. President Donald Trump, now encourages the public to wear them and said he carries one with him. For banks, widespread adoption has been trickier, the Washington Post reports. The small pieces of cloth public health officials consider one of the best defenses against the coronavirus threat could double as a handy disguise for would-be bank robbers, they say. Face-mask requirements “create the very real risk of increases in bank robberies,” said a top financial regulator. Banks generally prohibit customers entering their branches from wearing items that could shield their identities. No hoodies or sunglasses. Masks have been a big no-no. “Wearing a mask at any businesses, especially a bank, just a few months ago would have raised a lot of eyebrows,” said Richard Hunt of the Consumer Bankers Association.
The American Bankers Association is “urging” its members to require customers wear face masks. “We owe it to front-line bank staff to prioritize their safety and to contribute to the wider effort to limit the spread of this infection,” said Rob Nichols, the group’s president. Still, “Lengthy and potentially permanent requirements that individuals wear face masks in many or even all public spaces create the very real risk of increases in bank robberies,” says acting U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Brian Brooks. There have already been “recent reports of face-covering-related robberies at bank branches,” he said. In one case, a man walked into a Houston bank with a bandanna covering his face and handed a teller a note: “I didn’t get a stimulus or that 10k loan. I lost my business to Covid so please make this easy and comply.” The threat of bank robberies has been fading. There were 2,975 in 2018, down from 7,556 in 2004