OC No Longer Requires Face Coverings for All, But Workers at Essential Businesses Must Still Mask Up

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

When Orange County’s health officer last week dropped the requirement for wearing masks in public when people can’t keep a distance from others, that didn’t mean everyone can go bare-faced everywhere.

While the latest countywide health order says wearing a face covering is now a “strong recommendation” for people when they’re in public, a rule county supervisors passed in April still mandates masks for workers at grocery stores, restaurants, and other public-serving businesses.

Also, some cities have their own stricter rules, including Irvine and Costa Mesa, and businesses may ask customers to wear a mask to be served, just as they do with shirts and shoes.

Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said on a conference call with mayors and city managers, county CEO Frank Kim reiterated that customers and workers at essential businesses should wear masks – so later the city sent out a press release that said people who won’t wear a face covering in those businesses “should be refused service and asked to leave the premises.”

“We are far from out of the woods on this pandemic and medical experts agree that face coverings will reduce the community spread of COVID-19,” Whalen said. “I urge residents and visitors to Laguna Beach to be smart, think of others and wear a face-covering where you can’t physically distance. It’s a good idea for your own health and a small sacrifice to protect the health of others around you.”

Costa Mesa and Irvine officials made their own rules, mandating masks for customers as well as workers in businesses when social distancing isn’t possible. But even in those cities, clarity has proven elusive.

It’s confusing because there are state guidelines for businesses reopening and the county’s changing recommendations, as well as some cities’ separate rules, Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said. The mask rule has been an ongoing source of friction on the Board of Supervisors and with some residents.

The state requires businesses such as restaurants and hair salons to post a checklist the public can see that shows how they’re complying with safety guidelines for their industry – which often include masks, at least for workers.

On the same conference call with Whalen and Kim, “we were advised that it’s our job as cities to make sure that our businesses are in compliance Foley said.”

In the wake of the county relaxing its face-covering order last week, Foley said she spent the weekend explaining to businesses and residents that masks are still required in Costa Mesa.

Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said her city also continues to require masks for all in most public-serving businesses, but officials may consider relaxing that for customers. While a few people have complained about the city’s rule, most residents “have been very positive about it.”

Public health experts say face coverings can help prevent transmission of the Coronavirus by limiting the spread of respiratory droplets that an infected person expels when they talk or sneeze. While those who know they’re sick are asked to stay home, people who have not yet developed symptoms, or have very mild symptoms, are believed to be able to spread the virus to others.

Category: COVID-19, Business News