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A new report suggests that wearing a cloth mask doesn't just protect others from COVID-19, it can protect you as well. USA TODAY

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McDonald's will require customers to wear masks or face coverings when entering its 14,000 restaurants nationwide starting Aug. 1.

The fast food giant is the latest business to announce it will mandate masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19 as cases spike. The coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19.

"While nearly 82% of our restaurants are in states or localities that require facial coverings for both crew and customers today, it’s important we protect the safety of all employees and customers," McDonald's said in its statement Friday. 

StarbucksWalmart, Sam's Club, Kroger, Publix, Bed Bath & Beyond are among the major retailers now requiring masks nationwide. Target and Gap brand stores, which include Old Navy and Banana Republic, also will start requiring masks Aug. 1.

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McDonald's will train staff on the new mask policy so they are prepared to address it "in a friendly and positive way," said Joe Erlinger, McDonald's USA president, and Mark Salebra, National Franchise Leadership Alliance chair, in the statement.

"The intent of this policy is to take a proactive approach and focus on quickly finding solutions when customers are unable or unwilling to wear a face covering," the statement said. "In those situations where a customer declines to wear a face covering, we’ll put in place additional procedures to take care of them in a friendly, expedited way."

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McDonald's said it also is pausing dining room re-openings for an additional 30 days and adding protective panels "to create even safer conditions for our employees and customers."

"These conditions-based solutions are designed to safely allow owner/operators to increase order taking and seating capacity, as well as staffing levels, while continuing to meet social distancing guidelines," McDonald's said. "The panels are an additional safety measure and not a replacement for consistent PPE execution or adherence to social distancing guidelines."

A growing number of states also are requiring masks but individual businesses can choose to institute further restrictions.

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko

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