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CNN-Business

CNN viewers panic after Don Lemon’s announcement about his show

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

It’s true: “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” is ending after a seven year run. But he’s not going far — the show is just changing its name.

Beginning Monday at 10 pm ET, the two-hour program will be called “Don Lemon Tonight.” The anchorman triggered a frenzy late Friday after he said something cryptic about “CNN Tonight” on his show.

“It’s been really, really great,” Lemon remarked at the show’s end. “This is the last night that will be ‘CNN Tonight With Don Lemon.’ So, I appreciate all the years of ‘CNN Tonight With Don Lemon,’ but changes are coming, and I will fill you in.”

That sparked chatter that the CNN veteran was leaving the network. However, he later clarified on his Twitter account that he wasn’t leaving.

“Everybody calm down,” he said. “I didn’t say I was leaving CNN, I just said it was the end of an era for ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.’ I am not leaving CNN so you will have to tune in Monday at 10:00 to see.”

On Saturday, he wrote on Twitter that he “didn’t mean to set the internet on fire” and revealed the show’s new name and logo.

“CNN Tonight” launched in 2014, originally with a rotating group of hosts before it became Lemon’s show later that year.

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CNN-Business

Coca-Cola just axed another soda

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Coke Energy, we hardly knew you. The Coke-energy-drink hybrid is being discontinued in North America, just over a year after it launched.

Coke Energy hit shelves in January 2020, a few months before coronavirus began spreading across the region. However, the pandemic altered the beverage giant’s business strategy and in a statement Coke said that it’s focusing on the drinks that are selling well, including its caffeinated sparkling water and traditional sodas.

“An important component to this strategy is the consistent and constant evaluation of what’s performing and what’s not,” the company. “As we scale our best innovations quickly and effectively, like AHA and Coca-Cola with Coffee, we need to be disciplined with those that don’t get the traction required for further investment”

Four varieties were sold across North America, including Coke Energy, Coke Energy Zero Sugar, Coke Energy Cherry and Coke Energy Cherry Zero Sugar. The beverage is is made with guarana extracts and B-vitamins, has 114 mg of caffeine per 12-ounce serving. A 12-ounce can of regular Coke has about 34 mg of caffeine.

Coke Energy will remain on sale in other parts of the world.

It’s the latest Coke product to be axed from its sprawling lineup. The Atlanta-based company announced last year it was discontinuing 200 brands, or about half of its portfolio. The reduction would allow Coca-Cola to focus on its most profitable offerings.

So far, Zico coconut water, Tab and Odwalla juices have been buried in the beverage graveyard.

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CNN-Business

Starbucks, Publix and other places loosen mask restrictions for fully vaccinated

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Starbucks, Publix and Walt Disney World are the latest companies to change their masking policies Saturday following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They join Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco, which all announced changes to their policies in recent days changes. Thursday’s sudden announcement from the CDC, which said that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors (with some exceptions), has created a patchwork of new policies for private companies.

Here’s what changed over the past 24 hours:

Publix

Beginning Saturday, fully vaccinated associates and customers will not be required to wear face coverings at its grocery stores.

“As a result of the recently updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, Publix will no longer require fully vaccinated associates or customers to wear face coverings, unless required by a state or local order or ordinance, beginning May 15,” the statement read.

Starbucks

The coffee chain will make facial coverings optional for vaccinated customers starting on Monday, the company announced on its website.

“Facial coverings will be optional for vaccinated customers beginning Monday, May 17, unless local regulations require them by law,” it said.

However, its restrooms will continue to remain closed to customers in locations where café seating is unavailable.

Walt Disney World

The Florida theme park announced that masks and face coverings for guests will be “optional in outdoor common areas” at Disney World starting on Saturday. The exception being that guests “must wear face coverings from the entrances at all attractions, theaters or transportation and throughout those experiences,” the company said.

So that means if you’re walking down Main Street, U.S.A., you don’t have to wear a mask but if you’re riding Space Mountain, you’ll still have to.

Universal Studios

Universal Orlando Resort, a Disney competitor in Orlando that houses attractions from Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, also announced that it was updating its safety measures. Like Disney’s new requirements, it says that masks are not “mandatory” while outdoors but are still “required in all indoor locations including shops and restaurants” and required at all attractions.

–CNN’s Natasha Chen and Frank Pallotta contributed to this report.

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CNN-Business

BBC journalist quits as investigation into his landmark Princess Diana interview wraps up

By Rob Picheta and Rob Iddiols, CNN Business

The BBC journalist who conducted a bombshell 1995 interview with Princess Diana has resigned for health reasons, shortly before a report is to be published investigating whether he acted improperly to secure Diana’s permission to take part.

Martin Bashir has been accused of using forged documents in order to convince Diana to sit down for the interview, in which she caused a crisis within the royal family by detailing the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles.

A BBC spokesperson said the report, carried out by former judge Lord Dyson, is due “very soon.” The corporation announced on Friday that Bashir, who has been battling multiple health issues for several months, will step down from his current role as religion editor.

Bashir has long been alleged to have used forged documents that suggested the palace staff were working against Princess Diana and being paid to spy on her, CNN anchor and correspondent Max Foster has reported.

Matt Weissler, a former graphic designer for the BBC, said he mocked up false bank statements after Bashir reached out to him and said he needed “some bank statements.” Princess Diana’s brother Charles Spencer has claimed that Bashir tricked him by showing him the false bank statements, prompting him to introduce the journalist to his sister.

During the hugely publicized interview, Diana told Bashir that there were “three of us” in her marriage to Charles, referring to Camilla Parker Bowles, whom Charles would later marry.

Buckingham Palace was blindsided by the 1995 interview, according to Charles Anson, the queen’s press secretary at the time. “There wasn’t much that we could say,” Anson previously told CNN.

The BBC’s Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement last year he “will do everything possible to get to the bottom of this,” as he announced the independent inquiry. Bashir has not commented publicly on the allegations, and on Friday the BBC press office said: “Martin Bashir does not wish to be contacted by media and will not be making public comment at this time.”

On Friday Jonathan Munro, the BBC’s Deputy Director of News, sent an email to staff confirming Bashir would leave the corporation.

“He let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart,” the email read. “Although he underwent major surgery toward the end of last year, he is facing some ongoing issues and has decided to focus on his health. We wish him a complete and speedy recovery.”

CNN Business’s Alexis Benveniste contributed reporting

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CNN-Business

Gas station outages and higher prices at the pump may put a dent in road trip plans

CNN Business Staff

Vaccinated Americans hoping to leave their masks behind and hit the road this weekend may be in for sticker shock at the pump.

Gas prices hit their highest level in more than six years earlier this week, rising above $3 a gallon as demand shot up and supply was squeezed when a ransomware attack forced a massive East Coast pipeline to shut down. In several states in the Southeast, panic-buying left thousands of gas stations on empty.

The national average price per gallon on Saturday was $3.042, according to AAA.

Although the Colonial Pipeline — a critical 5,500 mile artery that runs from Houston to New Jersey — had restored operations by Wednesday night, several states in the Southeast were still reporting significant outages. In North Carolina, roughly 60% of gas stations were still dry Friday morning, according to the tracking site GasBuddy. About half of the stations in South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia were out of gas.

Officials have pleaded with motorists not to top off their tanks or rush to fill containers. In areas with significant outages, the re-supply of gas will likely take “a few weeks,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

By Saturday morning, De Haan tweeted “solid improvement overnight starting to show.”

Gas shortages were already a concern before the Colonial Pipeline disruption, not because of a lack of oil but rather a lack of drivers. The US fuel supply hinges on specially skilled tanker truck drivers who distribute gasoline around the country. Companies that train and hire drivers say they haven’t been able to regroup from the pandemic as quickly as demand for gas has rebounded.

— CNN Business’ Allison Morrow, Matt Egan and Chris Isidore contributed to this article.

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CNN-Business

Here’s what’s getting more expensive

By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Used cars, homes, lumber, gas and chicken: What do they all have in common? They’re all getting more expensive.

The stimulus-fueled economy is rebounding and Americans are again spending on shopping, traveling and eating out. But the pandemic is far from over, and supply-chain woes mean supply isn’t meeting demand — sending prices even higher.

US consumer prices in April increased 4.2% from a year earlier, more than the 3.6% economists had predicted. It was the biggest 12-month increase since September 2008, the height of the financial crisis.

Here’s what’s getting more expensive and why, according to CNN Business’ writers.

Chicken

Chickens are in short supply, sparking an increase in prices. Part of the blame goes to Tyson’s roosters.

The meat processor, which sells poultry along with beef and pork, said that its chicken volumes have been low in part because the roosters it uses for breeding are not meeting expectations.

“We’re changing out a male that, quite frankly, we made a bad decision on,” said Donnie King, Tyson’s chief operating officer and group president of poultry, during an analyst call this week.

To increase its chicken supply, Tyson is switching back to the male breeding chickens they previously used. The company declined to share what will happen to the rejected roosters, or how many are being swapped out.

Food in general is also getting more expensive: Prices rose 0.4% in April as both groceries and restaurant prices went up. Year-over-year, food prices are up 2.4%.

Gasoline

A growing number of gas stations along the East Coast were without fuel over the last week as nervous drivers aggressively fill up their tanks following a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline, a critical artery for gasoline, for six days.

The panic-buying threatened to exacerbate the supply shock. US gasoline demand climbed by 14% on Tuesday compared with the week before, according to GasBuddy, an app that tracks fuel prices and demand.

The pipeline reopened Wednesday night, but before it did average prices at the pump climbed above the key psychological milestone of $3 a gallon on Wednesday for the first time in more than six years, according to AAA.

Homes

The beginning of 2021 has seen home prices continue to climb to new record-breaking heights, with prices rising in almost every major metro area. Limited inventory is partly the reason why.

In 99% of metro areas tracked by the the National Association of Realtors, prices in the first quarter of 2021 increased over the same period last year, according to a NAR report. Nationally, the median sale price for existing homes climbed 16% from the first quarter of 2020 to $319,200, both record highs since NAR began tracking city data quarterly in 1989.

Nearly 90% of metro areas saw double-digit percentage price increases over last year. By comparison, only 25% of areas saw such growth in the first quarter of 2020, when housing inventory was at a healthier level and better matched the pace of monthly demand.

Lumber

As the pandemic crushed the US economy last spring, sawmills shut down lumber production to brace for a housing slump. The slump never arrived and now there isn’t enough lumber to feed the red-hot housing market.

The shortage is delaying construction of badly needed new homes, complicating renovations of existing ones and causing sticker shock for buyers in what was already a scorching market.

Random-length lumber futures hit a record high of $1,615 last week, a staggering sevenfold gain from the low in early April 2020. That’s a big deal because lumber is the most substantial supply that home builders buy. The price fell to $1,533 on Wednesday.

Used cars and trucks

The biggest driver of April’s inflation jump was a steep 10% increase in used cars and truck prices. That spike accounted for more than a third of the overall inflation increase and was the biggest price rise since the government started tracking used car data in 1953. Over the past year, used car prices rose 21%.

Making matters worse is that car dealer lots have only a fraction of the vehicles that they typically have of both new and used vehicles. That’s sending prices to record levels. For example, the average new car price was $37,200 in the first quarter, according to JD Power, up 8.4% from the same period just a year ago.

“That puts wholesale used prices at the highest level they’ve ever been,” said David Paris of JD Power. “And we are seeing used retail prices accelerating rapidly.”

–CNN Business’ Anna Bahney, Matt Egan Chris Isidore, Anneken Tappe and Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this report.

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CNN-Business

Disney World changes mask requirements for guests

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

In a major moment for Disney parks, and the theme park industry overall, Walt Disney World changed its mask rules for guests following new guidance from the CDC.

The resort located in Orlando, Florida announced Friday that masks and face coverings for guests will be “optional in outdoor common areas” at Disney World starting on Saturday. The exception being that guests “must wear face coverings from the entrances at all attractions, theaters or transportation and throughout those experiences,” the company said.

So that means if you’re walking down Main Street, U.S.A., you don’t have to wear a mask but if you’re riding Space Mountain, you’ll still have to.

The news comes after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances.

The adjusted safety requirements could have huge ramifications for Disney’s attendance numbers and the theme park industry as a whole since Disney parks are an industry leader. And as goes Disney, so usually go other amusement parks.

Universal Orlando Resort, a Disney competitor in Orlando that houses attractions from Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, also announced Friday that it was updating its Covid safety measures. Like Disney’s new requirements, it says that masks are not “mandatory” while outdoors but are still “required in all indoor locations including shops and restaurants” and required at all attractions.

Disney’s parks and resorts have been an important foundation of the company’s media empire for decades. However, the division was hit particularly hard because of the coronavirus pandemic. Following a challenging year that brought extended closures and significant layoffs, the new mask rules, as well as increasing capacities, could have a significant impact on the parks’ attendance heading into the vital summer season.

Disney generated more than $26 billion in sales at its parks division in fiscal 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, representing 37% of the company’s overall revenue. Returning to those levels would obviously be a boon to not just the parks unit, but all of Disney.

“This is the next step in their recovery,” Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, told CNN Business before the announcement on Friday. “They’ve built a foundation at the parks that they can expand upon. I don’t think you’re really going to see the result of that expansion in 2021, but you’re going to see the beginning of it.”

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is the world’s most-visited theme park, with more than 20 million visitors in 2018, according to a report by AECOM. The company has invested billions in its theme park division, opening new Star Wars lands in Florida and California in 2019. It’s also planning to debut Avengers Campus, a land based on the successful Marvel franchise, at Disneyland this summer.

Disneyland, the flagship resort in California, reopened last month after being closed for more than a year.

Disney did not say if and when it would change mask guidance and safety measures at its other parks.

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CNN-Business

New CDC mask guidance could be a big boost for Disney parks

By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

Disney’s parks division, one of the company’s foundations since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, is trying to rebound after a challenging year that brought extended closures and significant layoffs. However, the unit received news Thursday that could give Disney’s parks a much-needed boost.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances. The new guidelines could have huge consequences for Disney’s attendance numbers and the theme park industry as a whole.

In fact, the mask decision could come very soon for Disney. Universal Orlando Resort, a competitor of Disney’s in Florida, announced Friday afternoon that it was updating its Covid safety measures and now saying that masks are not “mandatory” while outdoors but are still “required in all indoor locations including shops and restaurants” and required at all attractions.

While it’s not yet clear how and if Disney will change its park policies, a Disney spokeperson said in a statement Thursday that the CDC guidance is “extremely positive news” and that “as soon as is practical, we will implement updated guidelines across our businesses.”

Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, agreed: “This is potentially a huge deal for Disney, but as with everything that we’ve dealt with over the past year and a half, it’s all going to come down to the details.”

According to Niles, the mask guidance matters more to Disney tourists than it does to customers at Walmart or Starbucks because of the length of time they have to wear a mask.

“You’re not doing this for 30 minutes … Disney is an all-day commitment for most people,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to come back until I don’t have to spend 12 hours in a mask, particularly outside in Florida where the weather can be nasty in the summer.'”

He added, “if Disney can get beyond having to require that, that’s potentially a big deal for the company.”

Mask or not to mask?

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the announcement is “very big news for us” while on the company’s earnings call with analysts on Thursday.

“Particularly if anybody’s been in Florida in the middle of summer with a mask on, that can be quite daunting,” he said on the call. “We think that’s going to make for an even more pleasant experience. And we believe that as we’re now bringing a lot of people back to work, that it’s going to be an even bigger catalyst for growth in attendance.”

Chapek also announced on the company’s earnings call that Disney has already “started to increase our capacities” at Walt Disney World in Florida, though he didn’t say by how much.

He also told CNBC on Thursday that the resorts have seen “no shortage of demand whatsoever.” So allowing more people in their parks could actually have a more meaningful impact than tourists who might be delaying their return due to mask requirements.

Disney generated more than $26 billion in sales at its parks division in fiscal 2019, the year prior to the pandemic, representing 37% of the company’s overall revenue. Returning to those levels would obviously be a boon to the company.

Whatever Disney ultimately does will also have a domino effect on the rest of the theme park industry since the company is an industry leader, Niles said. Still, it also comes with a lot of complications.

“I think what’s keeping Disney from making an immediate change is that there’s no way right now that Disney can easily tell who is fully vaccinated and continue to know that through the entirety of someone’s visit,” he said. “The entire industry is struggling with that right now, but Disney’s guidance can be very helpful on how to manage this.”

“They’ve got to find a way to make parents feel comfortable”

Another concern for Disney in terms of requiring masks or not is that its parks are centered around children, who aren’t as broadly vaccinated as the US adult population.

Vaccines have been approved only for children as young as 12. That means that those not old enough to get the vaccine still need to wear their masks, according to Dr. Fauci.

This issue could further complicate matters as Disney parks adjust their rules as the pandemic evolves.

“This is not a big deal for, say, a Las Vegas, but for Disney, this is huge,” Niles noted. “The safety of children is probably the biggest issue that’s going to affect the success of the Disney theme parks going forward. They’ve got to find a way to make parents feel comfortable bringing their kids to a Disney theme park.”

And since Disney is such an interconnected company, what happens at the parks division impacts the rest of the business.

So if going maskless helps Disney’s parks drive higher attendance, it could help the company’s entire media empire rebound after a particularly rough year.

“This is the next step in their recovery,” Niles said. “They’ve built a foundation at the parks that they can expand upon. I don’t think you’re really going to see the result of that expansion in 2021, but you’re going to see the beginning of it. I think this is a positive development for Disney.”

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CNN-Business

How two brothers went from nearly jobless to multi-millionaires with a bizarre crypto bet

By Chloe Melas, CNN

On the morning of April 17, two brothers in Westchester, New York, woke up to learn that they had become millionaires overnight, thanks to an unlikely wager on a cryptocurrency that was originally created as a joke.

Tommy, 38, and James, 42, who have asked CNN not to publish their last names to protect their anonymity, had put a few hundred bucks into an odd digital asset called shiba inu coin — a spinoff of dogecoin, so basically a parody of a parody. One coin was worth a fraction of a cent, but a friend, who happened to be a crypto expert, told them he believed it could be a big moneymaker.

“I kind of thought about bitcoin — that was once a fraction of a penny and now it’s tens of thousands of dollars, and this happens to people, it’s possible,” Tommy said. “I trusted my friend and I figured if it went to zero, that’s OK. I thought of it as a lotto ticket that wouldn’t expire.”

Less than two months after their initial investment in late February, their lives changed. It was their dad’s birthday, and instead of giving him a card, they made him a millionaire.

Valuations on cryptocurrencies have exploded in 2021. After years of being either ignored or sneered at by Wall Street, cryptos — including established players like bitcoin and lesser-known “altcoins”— are enjoying unprecedented investor interest. Bitcoin is up nearly 70% since January, and dogecoin, which was started as a joke and is still worth less than a dollar, is up more than 11,000%, according to Coindesk.

But cryptocurrencies are also extremely risky, unregulated investments. Prices are known to swing wildly. And digital currencies bring other unique kinds of risk, such as the potential for a hacked server, a deleted file or a lost password that could leave investors locked out of their funds forever.

James and Tommy rolled the dice, each initially investing $200. They also presented the idea to their mom, dad, sister and a few other family members.

“My mother and sister were skeptical but they each put in $100, too,” Tommy said. “After a few weeks when it was up about 300% they put another $100 in each, and then it kept going up.”

In total, the group put in nearly $8,000.

‘Oh my God’

Prior to the pandemic, the brothers’ primary income came from filming weddings, but the Covid-19 outbreak nearly shuttered their business. Rather than booking 30-40 weddings that year, James said, they did no more than eight.

“We kind of fell through the cracks,” Tommy said. “The government stimulus checks weren’t enough to sustain us. I’m a positive person but it was really tough, and not knowing the future was kind of scary.”

As their shiba coin investment took off, it was hard to believe the change in their fortune. While filming a wedding in mid-April, they kept half an eye on their investment, which had quickly shot up to $100,000. And it kept climbing.

“We woke up the next morning and it doubled. We were like, ‘Oh my god,'” Tommy said.

“Then it went up to $700,000 and I told my brother it’s going to hit a million. I kept refreshing my phone.”

The next day, it happened.

“The day it hit a million — my mom and sister, they didn’t think it was real.”

The family’s initial stake of $7,900? It’s now worth nearly $9 million as of Thursday. CNN Business confirmed the value via their coin wallet and transaction history.

What is shiba coin?

Shiba inu was created less than a year ago — an obvious spinoff of dogecoin, which features a Shiba Inu dog as its mascot. It may have been a joke of a joke, but not many people are laughing now.

Shiba coin, which goes by the ticker symbol SHIB, is up more than 11,000% in the past 30 days, according to the site CoinGecko.

Earlier this week, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin made headlines by donating $1 billion worth of shiba coin to a Covid-19 relief fund in India.

The crypto, known informally as a memecoin or altcoin, has also won a handful of celebrity backers from former boy band stars to NFL pros.

Backstreet Boys star Nick Carter, who is seen frequently tweeting the hashtag #Shiba and #ShibArmy.

“As an enthusiast and investor in cryptocurrency, seeing the announcement about SHIB and Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin’s donation to India was very exciting,” Carter told CNN Business in a statement. “I believe there is an incredible future for Crypto – especially knowing how it can be used for good and more importantly, to save lives.”

NFL star Antonio Brown tweeted Wednesday to his over 1 million followers that he too has invested in this cryptocurrency.

“The shiba business is booming and crypto is the way to go,” Brown told CNN Business on Thursday. “It’s a new way of investing.”

There are thousands of cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin and ethereum account for nearly two-thirds of the entire $2.3 trillion global crypto market. And while they can be quite profitable, as James and Tommy have learned, they are also extremely volatile.

For example, bitcoin, by far the most established crypto in use today, plunged a staggering 12% this week after Elon Musk reversed Tesla’s plans to accept bitcoin as payment, citing environmental concerns. And dogecoin, one that Musk has regularly hyped on Twitter, plummeted nearly 20% after Musk’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend.

Advice from Tommy and James

As for how Tommy and James plan to use their money, they aren’t entirely sure. They have yet to completely cash out their investment, and are holding out for something called ShibaSwap, a decentralized exchange platform.

“This has happened so quickly it’s hard to even comprehend the things you can do with this money,” Tommy said.

But the first order of business is to help mom and dad.

“My parents’ house needs a new roof, so I’ll take care of that.”

For anyone thinking of trying to replicate the brothers’ wild success, James offers a word of warning: “Don’t put in any money that you aren’t willing to lose,” he said. “The meme tokens are very high-risk and you really don’t know what is going to happen with them. We know this is not what typically happens, although shiba has changed our lives. When you see it fluctuate so much, it does keep you up at night.”

— CNN Business’ Paul R. La Monica contributed to this article.

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CNN-Business

Walmart, Trader Joe’s and Costco say vaccinated customers don’t have to wear masks in stores

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner and Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN Business

Shoppers who are vaccinated against Covid-19 can shop without masks in some Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco locations as well as at Trader Joe’s, the companies said in separate announcements Friday.

The news follows new guidance that fully vaccinated people can go without masks under most circumstances.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except when in healthcare settings, on public transportation, or in other areas where governments require masks. People will still need to follow workplace and local businesses’ mask guidance, the CDC said.

Friday afternoon, Walmart executives sent out a letter to Walmart and Sam’s Club stores as well as supply chain facilities encouraging employees to get vaccinated. The letter noted that as of Friday, “vaccinated customers and members are welcome to shop without a mask,” while unvaccinated shoppers are asked to keep wearing masks in stores.

Employees who are fully vaccinated will be permitted to work without masks starting May 18, the letter said, adding that some workers may have to continue to wear masks for health or sanitation reasons.

The letter added that “masks will also continue to be required by some city and state ordinances, and we will follow those requirements.”

At Costco, vaccinated customers can shop without masks in US locations where there are no state or local mask mandates.

“We will allow members and guests who are fully vaccinated to enter Costco without a face mask or face shield,” in those areas, the company said in a message posted to its website Friday. “Costco continues to recommend that all members and guests, especially those who are at higher risk, wear a mask or shield.”

Costco won’t require proof that customers have been vaccinated. Instead, the message said, “we ask for members’ responsible and respectful cooperation with this revised policy.”

All customers will still have to wear face coverings in Costco’s pharmacy and other healthcare settings, the company specified. They will also have to wear them if they are in stores in locations where there are mask mandates.

At Trader Joe’s, “we encourage customers to follow the guidance of health officials, including, as appropriate, CDC guidelines that advise customers who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while shopping,” the grocery chain said in a statement on its website Friday.

Trader Joe’s is keeping many of its pandemic policies in place, such as wellness checks for employees and spacing people out within its stores, according to the company’s statement. The grocery chain will not request or require proof of vaccination from its customers, Trader Joe’s spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel told CNN Business in an email. She noted that employees still have to wear masks at this time.

Other retailers are leaving their policies unchanged for now. For example, Walgreens has decided to keep its mask policy in place after taking some time to review its requirements, according to spokesperson Emily Mekstan.

“As a destination for COVID vaccine and testing, we have decided to keep our current face covering policy in place for the time being,” Mekstan told CNN Business in an email Friday.

On its Covid-19 FAQ site, last updated on May 6, the company said “customers are required to wear face covers before entering the store except where doing so would inhibit the individual’s health or where the individual is under 2 years of age.” Kroger and others are still requiring customers to wear masks in stores.

Unions representing grocery store workers and retail workers said Thursday stores should continue requiring customers to wear masks to protect workers. Marc Perrone, president of United Food and Commercial Workers’ union, called the CDC guidance “confusing,” adding that it “fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”

Lisa LaBruno, senior executive vice president at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said on Thursday the guidance “creates ambiguity” for retailers because the national guidance may be out of step with local orders.

“These conflicting positions put retailers and their employees in incredibly difficult situations,” she said.