Public Spaces = Covered Faces

Written by Susan Kohn Ross

On Friday, April 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out with a recommendation that anyone who goes out in public should wear a face covering.  The CDC took action based on recent studies which are said to show that “a significant portion” of individuals have the COVID-19 virus but are displaying no symptoms, and so are unknowingly infecting others. Speaking is cited as one of the situations by which asymptomatic individuals are spreading the virus. Therefore, CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, where social distancing may be difficult to maintain.

As part of the CDC publication, the Surgeon General displays in a less than 45 second video how to make a cloth face covering from household items – a cloth and two rubber bands. The CDC notice and the video can both be found here.

In line with the CDC’s recommendation, City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti held a press conference the same day during which he asked the City’s residents to start covering their faces when out in public. Much like the CDC, the Mayor stressed the City is recommending people use cloth face coverings plus physical distancing when conducting essential activities outside the home. Also, like the CDC, Mayor Garcetti requested that individuals avoid purchasing surgical and N95 masks, which should be “reserved for first responders and medical workers.”

The Mayor’s announcement was issued in response to the California Department of Public Health advisory on the use of cloth face coverings, which are not required but strongly recommended. Echoing the concerns of the CDC and other health professionals, Los Angeles Public Health officials reminded everyone that face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and frequent hand washing, which are among the most effective ways to prevent the virus spreading. They also recommend washing the face covering each time it is used.

Even with the use of social distancing and face coverings/masks, there remains a concern that people will become overly confident and stop being as careful following all the guidelines and orders.

This strong recommendation about face coverings by public health officials may cause employers to consider changing their guidance to employees, especially those who continue to work as before due to their “essential” nature.

Update 4/8/20:

On Tuesday, April 7th, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced new related orders. Among other things, the orders require all residents to wear a face covering when visiting the majority of essential businesses.

Two of the new orders can be found at the links below:

City of Los Angeles: Public Order re Worker Protection

City of Los Angeles: Public Order re Grocery, Drug Retail and Food Delivery Worker Protection

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