Masks are now required inside essential businesses. Here’s what that means

Long Beach is now requiring that employees and customers wear cloth masks or face coverings while inside essential businesses.

The announcement comes after the city of Los Angeles mandated similar measures this week.

“We are at a critical moment in this public health emergency and we will do everything possible to protect the public and essential workers like grocery store and food workers,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “It’s time to step up protective measures and ensure that we keep hospitals ready and available to care for those who need the most help.”

Those who work in essential businesses will now be required to wear masks that covers the mouth and nose. Kelly Colopy, Long Beach’s director of Health & Human Services, said the mask can be any type of cloth covering, including a scarf or bandanna. She noted that face masks must be washed every day and users should wash their hands before touching them.

“The cloth masks that you are wearing are not protecting you. They are protecting others from you,” Colopy said. She noted that you don’t need a filter in the mask in order to keep your own fluids to yourself.

It’s a good idea for people to wear masks even if they just go outside for a walk, Garcia said. Colopy said people must wear them if they might be within 6 feet of others for 10 minutes or more, like if you go for a walk and end up talking to someone else.

In addition, essential businesses are required to post and implement social distancing protocols by April 15 and until May 15.

This includes:

  • Limiting the number of people who can enter the facility at one time to ensure that a minimum of 6-foot distance can be maintained between people easily.
  • Marking 6-foot increments in lines to establish where individuals should stand to ensure adequate distancing.
  • Providing hand sanitizer or disinfectant strong enough for use against COVID-19 at entrances and other appropriate areas.
  • Providing contactless payment systems or providing for disinfecting at all payment portals after each use.
  • Providing physical space, such as a partition or plexiglass, between employees and customers.
  • Regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
  • Requiring that employees and contracted workers whose duties require close contact with other employees and/or the public wear face coverings. “Close contact” means being within 6 feet of another person for 10 minutes or more.
  • Requiring that members of the public who enter an essential business wear a face covering during their time in the facility. An essential business may refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear a face covering required by this subsection.
  • Requiring and permitting employees to wash hands every 30 minutes, or as needed if gloves are provided. If handwashing is not possible, hand sanitizer must be made available to the employee and time to sanitize hands.
  • Maintaining sanitary and stocked restrooms for employees.
  • Displaying facility signage informing all employees and customers to: avoid entering the facility if they are experiencing symptoms of illness; maintain a distance of at least six feet between all individuals; and not engage in unnecessary physical contact.
  • Making every effort to enable employees to telecommute, teleconference, and otherwise maintain separation of at least six feet. Businesses must maximize the number of employees who work from home.

Similar to Long Beach, essential businesses across the county must provide face coverings to all employees who interact with the public, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, announced Wednesday. Grocery, drug and retail stores must also ensure sufficient staffing to properly clean facilities and shopping carts between uses. They also must provide crowd control and establish operating hours for vulnerable populations.

The county will also require the general public to wear face coverings when mingling with other people outside the home, and when going into a business.

Read the full order here.

In addition, the order closes all public swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, splash pads, saunas and steam rooms. Sidewalk vending of retail goods and services are also halted.

While the public health orders will remain in place until May 15, officials could not provide any insight on whether they will actually end at that point, saying they will have to reevaluate the situation at that time. The orders, however, could easily extend into the summer months depending on the virus’ rate of spread.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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