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Mayor Garcetti announces face-covering requirement for essential workers, customers

Both workers and customers will be required to wear cloth face masks at nonmedical essential businesses, like Ralphs, starting Friday. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jintak Han

April 9, 2020 3:38 pm

Los Angeles City residents will be required to wear cloth face coverings while working or shopping at nonmedical essential businesses, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday.

A new order mandating the use of cloth face coverings at essential businesses to protect residents during the coronavirus pandemic will go into effect Friday, Garcetti said at the city’s daily press briefing.

“We wanted to wait until these were available,” Garcetti said. “We can see people now selling them on corners, online. Our capacity, thanks to the amazing apparel industry here, has expanded.”

Under the order, businesses must provide the coverings for their employees or reimburse them for the cost. Stores may also deny entry to customers who do not bring their own face mask.

Workers that require a higher level of protection, such as doctors who may need N95 or surgical masks, are exempt from the order. The order only applies only to a subset of businesses allowed to operate under the city’s “Safer At Home” order.

However, the order does not apply to some occupations, such as postal workers who often are not provided with any personal protective equipment at all. Public health officials concluded that these fields of work lack the close interaction for which masks are beneficial, Garcetti said in a Wednesday press briefing.

Garcetti said those who do not comply may receive an administrative citation, which results in a fine but no arrest.

“Our idea is not to be arresting and fining people for the face coverings,” Garcetti said. “We’re relying on people to use their judgment, to use their own self-enforcement. … When you ask people to do that, they actually do step up.”

The order also encourages essential retail businesses to add an acrylic barrier at points of sale, although Garcetti said there is not enough acrylic to install barriers in every store in the city.

Los Angeles was one of the first cities in the United States to recommend public use of cloth face coverings. It is also now one of a growing number of cities and by far the largest city in the nation to mandate face coverings.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention switched its stance on masks and started recommending the public wear cloth face coverings a day after Garcetti’s own recommendation on April 1.

Garment workers in the city’s fashion district have gained recognition for switching to mask production to meet the public demand. The city started the L.A. Protects program on March 27 to recruit textile businesses to produce masks and distribute them to essential businesses.

UCLA officials announced Wednesday that the university will comply with the order and provide mandatory face coverings for its employees at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center, Tiverton House, Lake Arrowhead Conference Center and UCLA housing and dining facilities starting Friday.

Some stores in Los Angeles have already been providing its workers with masks. Silvio Wong, a manager at Target Westwood, said the store has already placed orders for masks and expects to receive them within the week.

“Since the mayor has issued the mandate for the mask, every store has escalated the order for the masks to have them as soon as possible,” Wong said. “This is an important business. We have to make sure that everyone’s safe and protected.”

If the masks do not arrive before Friday, employees will have to bring their own fabric coverings to work, Wong said. Any masks that the store receives for sale are being recalled for distribution to health care facilities.

Other stores already had some of the order’s provisions in place. At the 7-Eleven in Westwood, a wall of clear plastic shower curtains separate the cashier from the customers, who must wear masks to enter the store. If a customer does not have a mask, an employee picks up items on their behalf.

Penny Grady rings up a customer behind a shower curtain barrier at the 7-Eleven in Westwood Village. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Wednesday was Penny Grady’s first day working at Westwood’s 7-Eleven. She transferred from a 7-Eleven in Downtown Los Angeles to the Village because of a shortage of staff.

Grady wore a surgical mask that her boss provided.

“It’s difficult to find (masks),” Grady said. “It’s scary when you don’t know which one to wear to protect yourself correctly. Some of them, it’s hard to breathe in … I think that’s why a lot of people don’t wear them, but if it will help prevent the spreading, then I’m wearing them.”

Students also struggled to find masks, both surgical and cloth, to wear while shopping.

Ariana Kazemi, a fourth-year electrical engineering student, spent her Wednesday afternoon shopping for groceries at Ralphs with her friend Madison Hoo, a fourth-year fine arts student. They both wore latex gloves that Hoo bought, but did not have masks.

“We primarily looked online,” Hoo said. “Or like in stores, even if I asked an employee, they’re like, ‘Yeah, we don’t have it.’”

With the order going into effect Friday, Kazemi and Hoo said they will try to make their own face coverings.

“I feel kind of bad that I’m not wearing a mask, because I look around and everyone’s wearing one,” Hoo said. “I’m probably going to try to make one if I can because I don’t want other people to get in trouble for me not wearing a mask.”

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Jintak Han | Senior staff photojournalist & news reporter
Jintak Han is a senior staff photojournalist and news reporter. He photographs anything that catches his eye and writes for the City & Crime beat. He previously served as the 2016-2017 Assistant Photo editor.
Jintak Han is a senior staff photojournalist and news reporter. He photographs anything that catches his eye and writes for the City & Crime beat. He previously served as the 2016-2017 Assistant Photo editor.
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