A debate over the efficacy of wearing masks to protect from the coronavirus has occurred for weeks. It now seems apparent that insistence that masks were not effective at containing the spread of the disease was part of a purposeful disinformation campaign by some public health officials and elements of the media. The reason for this was to prevent a run on masks when they are most needed by medical personnel. Shortages of personal protective equipment have become more noticeable, with many people having no recourse but to craft their own masks out of household supplies.
As it becomes acknowledged that masks are able to lessen the chance of catching or spreading the coronavirus, many public officials—contrary to earlier advice—are now requesting that people begin wearing them. In an aggressive policy action, Los Angeles, California has become one of the country’s first localities to mandate the use of face masks while shopping at essential businesses.
The requirement will commence midnight as Thursday turns to Friday. Starting then, all customers entering the necessary businesses that have been allowed to stay open despite the quarantine must be wearing some kind of cloth mask. These businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, hotels, and any kind of taxi or ride-sharing service. These locations are permitted to refuse service to anyone not covering their mouth and nose.
All employees of these businesses must wear masks as well, and employers must reimburse the cost of such items. Included in the new rule are regulations on essential businesses mandating that they ensure every worker has access to a clean restroom and has an opportunity to wash their hands at a minimum of thirty-minute intervals. While Los Angeles public health officials have recommended implementing the use of plexiglass doors between employees and customers where possible, this was not included in the order.
“We need to protect every worker on the front lines of this crisis,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, from whose office the order originated. “Each one of us is a first responder in this emergency. Every employer should keep employees safe, and so should Angelenos patronizing these businesses."
Garcetti, elected mayor in 2013, has been a popular leader, finding a balance between his progressive politics and practical governing. In recent weeks, his city has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in California. Los Angeles County currently has almost seven thousand positive cases and has suffered 169 deaths. This is out of a total of 9.8 million residents.
“We can see people now selling them [masks] on corners, online,” Garcetti said. “Our capacity, thanks to the amazing apparel industry here, has expanded and people can buy them online.” Many U.S. companies, such as My Pillow, have been manufacturing masks and other protective equipment to meet the coronavirus crisis.
Hunter DeRensis is the senior reporter for the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.