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Grocery Store (And Many Other) Employees Must Now Wear Face Masks At Work

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A cashier works while wearing a face mask and protective gloves in a supermarket in Montpellier, France, on March 30, 2020. PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images
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Grocery store employees are about to get a form of protection many of them have been wanting for weeks — face masks.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti today issued an order requiring the employees of many non-medical essential businesses to wear cloth face coverings over their noses and mouths while they are at work — and employers must provide this gear for workers or reimburse them for their cost.

The order goes into effect at midnight Thursday night/Friday morning. It applies to workers at grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels and construction sites as well as taxi and rideshare drivers, among others.

Los Angeles officials have been encouraging businesses to enact these practices for weeks. Some grocery stores have followed suit. Others have not. In fact, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, several retailers refused to allow employees to wear protective gear.

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Why did it take so long for officials to make these practices mandatory? Garcetti says he waited, in part, because there weren't enough masks available until now. He said:

"We wanted to make sure there was capacity. We've been working for a couple weeks, and we have the confidence now that there is the capacity for anybody to get a facial covering."

On its coronavirus website, the city of L.A. has a page dedicated to helping businesses and people secure face masks.
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A graphic explains a new order issued by the the city of Los Angeles requiring employees of non-medical essential businesses and the customers who shop at them to wear face masks. (City of Los Angeles)

WHY IT'S URGENT

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With a number of grocery store workers recently dying of coronavirus in the U.S., the order has a special urgency.

Although retail employees, who might interact with hundreds of people during a shift, are shouldering much of the risk, Garcetti's order also impacts customers.

Starting Friday, you will have to wear wear a face covering when you enter a non-medical essential business.

"If you're shopping for groceries, if you're picking up your prescription or visiting any other essential business, you will need to cover your face. And if you're not covering your face by Friday morning, an essential business can refuse you service," Garcetti said.

The order also requires these businesses to provide their employees with access to clean and sanitary restrooms stocked with cleansing products, such as soap and sanitizer. They must allow employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes. In addition, they must implement physical distancing measures for workers, customers and visitors.

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City officials are also encouraging all essential retail businesses to add Plexiglas barriers between cashiers and customers, but they haven't required it because, Garcetti said, there isn't yet enough Plexiglas to go around.

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