As the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has dramatically increased, so too has the heated discussion over whether or not we should be wearing masks to protect ourselves, and just how effective they are at pushing back against the pandemic.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti weighed in today, and he’s advising that Angelenos do indeed wear masks when out in public.
“With today’s guidance from Governor Newsom and Dr. Ferrer from County Public Health, we are now recommending that Angelenos use homemade face coverings when they are in public and interacting with others,” Garcetti said in his Tuesday evening address. “To be clear, you should still stay at home. This isn’t an excuse to suddenly all go out. But when you have to go out, we are recommending that we use non-medical-grade masks or facial coverings and not take the ones that are reserved for our first responders.” While Garcetti notes that it’ll look surreal in our city, he believes that, even if it’s just marginally effective, it’s a worthwhile effort.
UPDATE (4/7): In a Tuesday evening address, Garcetti announced that he’d be requiring both customers and employees at non-medical essential businesses to wear cloth masks. Starting Friday, April 10, all employees of many grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, rideshare vehicles and construction sites, among other non-medical essential businesses, will be required to wear cloth face coverings over their noses and mouths at work. On the other side, customers will also be required to cover their faces at these same spots—otherwise a business can refuse your service. Employers at these spots will be required to provide masks or reimburse their employees for the costs. In addition, Garcetti is encouraging—but not requiring—retail businesses to add plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers.
COVID-19 Response Update from Mayor Garcetti, April 1
Tonight, we're announcing new steps to ensure non-essential businesses comply with the Safer at Home order, and collaborating with manufacturers and universities to get masks and protective gear to frontline workers across our city. Closed captioning available at lacityview.org/live Esta noche, anunciamos nuevos pasos para garantizar que las empresas no esenciales cumplan con la orden “Más seguros en Casa” y colaboramos con fabricantes y universidades para obtener máscaras y equipo de protección para los trabajadores al frente de la línea en nuestra ciudad.Posted by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday, April 1, 2020
The mayor is specifically advising Angelenos to not purchase medical-grade, surgical or N95 masks, as first responders, doctors, nurses, medical technicians need access to them “so that they can keep saving lives.” He is, however, encouraging Angelenos to assemble homemade masks or to use simple cloth coverings or bandanas while at the grocery store or the pharmacy (you know, the kind of apparel you’d be readying right about now for Coachella during a normal year). And again, he stresses that such a measure is only effective with safe physical distancing.
Securing even a non-medical mask may be a challenge right now, which is where the recently-launched L.A. Protects comes in. The manufacturing initiative has tapped the local garment industry (like the Hedley & Bennett story we wrote last month) to produce non-medical masks for grocery store workers, non-medical staff in hospitals and other essential roles. Garcetti says that more than 400 garment and apparel manufacturers have signed up to make cloth face coverings, and that 147 of those have already met the required health protocols. The result: The ability to produce more than two million cloth masks per week to essential roles, including for the 99 businesses that have already reached out for gear.
Mayor Garcetti also brought up relaxed health department laws that will allow restaurants to continue to operate pop-up grocery stores, and on the opposite end, that he’s authorized the Department of Water and Power to cut utilities for non-essential businesses that are operating in defiance of the “safer at home” order.
And as for why now for masks? “I’ve been waiting for the advice… I think there’s going to be some forthcoming advice in the coming days from our state and local officials, but they’ve been waiting on the CDC. I finally said, today, I don’t want to wait any longer.”