The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) recently began recommending the use of non-medical masks or “cloth face coverings” to help stem the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC’s recommendation, cloth face coverings are recommended in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g. grocery stores and pharmacies). The CDC has made clear that the cloth face coverings guideline for non-medical settings are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.

In addition to the CDC’s recommendation, on April 1st, the California Department of Public Health offered guidance regarding face coverings. The Department was careful to specify that should counties choose to implement policies promoting the use of face coverings, they need to be careful not to increase the demand for medical-grade respirators, such as N95 and surgical masks.

In response to the Department’s guidance, the County of San Diego was the first to issue an Addendum to the Order of the Health Officer and Emergency Regulations. The order sets forth that effective April 4th, all employees who may have contact with the public in any grocery store, pharmacy/drug store, convenience store, restaurant and other business establishments that serve food shall wear a cloth face covering.

Riverside County then followed with a broader order requiring that all persons, including essential workers, wear face coverings. Riverside’s order specifies that face coverings include scarves made of dense fabric, bandanas, neck gaiter, or other fabric face coverings. In compliance with the Department of Public Health guidance, the order specifically discourages individuals, including essential workers, from using personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, for non-medical reasons.

The City of Los Angeles also issued an executive order that mandates essential workers defined by the order to wear face coverings and requires employers with providing face coverings to their employees. Employers are required to allow their essential workers to wash their hands every 30 minutes. The Los Angeles order also requires individuals going into essential businesses such as grocery stores to wear face coverings for worker safety.

Other counties are only strongly recommending the use of face coverings for the time being. These recommendations could become mandates, however, as the incidents of coronavirus increase.

As a proactive measure, employers deemed essential during shelter-in-place orders should continue to review orders regarding face coverings to ensure their employees are complying with county mandates and considering CDC guidelines while in their scope of work.

Jackson Lewis has a dedicated team tracking and responding to the developing issues facing employers in this difficult time. If you need guidance in handling the complicated issues pertaining to COVID-19, contact a Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss.