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Oakland County Will Start Requiring Restaurant Workers to Wear Face Masks

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The new rule takes effect for all essential workers including grocery store and food service employees beginning Monday, April 27

Three handmade masks made from blue printed fabric sit flat on a table.
Restaurants and other essential services will be required to provide employees with protective face coverings in Oakland County beginning on April 27.
Nong4/Shutterstock

Oakland County is becoming one of the first municipalities in Michigan to mandate essential workers wear face masks in the workplace. As part of an expanded order announced today by Oakland County executive David Coulter, beginning Monday, April 27 all employees at restaurants, bars, grocery stores, liquor stores, and other essential services will be required to wear protective facial covering at work.

The measure is designed to protect both employees and consumers during face-to-face interactions and the handling of goods, Coulter stated during a press conference today. The facial mask requirement is in addition to a mandate already in place in the county requiring daily COVID-19 screenings for essential workers

The April 27 deadline is designed to allow businesses to acquire the appropriate equipment for daily work. Coulter stated that that masks will likely be part of a “new normal” as business prepare down the line to reopen.

Early on in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, people were urged not to horde masks in an effort to prevent shortages for health care workers, medical first-responders, and people who were actually sick. Officials also feared that by wearing a mask, people might become less careful about social distancing. But as the novel coronavirus spread, the CDC’s guidelines around masks evolved.

On April 3, the CDC changed its recommendations to advise that every person in the U.S. wear a cloth mask or face covering in certain public spaces (not a surgical or N95 mask). The goal of wearing a mask is not so much to prevent yourself from getting sick but to help protect others; the coronavirus is particularly contagious and can be spread through airborne droplets by asymptomatic carriers and people who are sick but aren’t yet showing symptoms. If everyone wears a mask in addition to staying six feet apart and washing hands frequently, then those carrying the virus are less likely to spread it to people around them.

The national guidance is still voluntary; however, cities and municipalities such as Austin and Miami now require people wear face coverings in public. Oakland County’s new rule requires masks be worn according to CDC guidelines. To properly wear a mask, it must: fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, covering the nose and mouth; be secured with ties or ear loops; include multiple layers of fabric; allow for breathing without restriction; and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Essential workers such as nurses and grocery store employees are particularly at risk for contracting the virus. Over the weekend, Kroger and Meijer reported five grocery workers at locations throughout Michigan had died from COVID-19.

Many essential businesses in the state of Michigan have already implemented these requirements to help protect essential workers and the public, though gaps still remain. Reached by Eater on Tuesday, a representative for the Wayne County executive’s office said in a statement that there were no plans at this time to introduce mask-wearing as a requirement.

Oakland County is encouraging businesses to implement mask use as soon as they’re able ahead of the deadline. The news follows a statewide executive order implemented on Monday to allow for refunds of spirits purchased by bars and restaurants prior to March 16 and an order continuing the closure of restaurant and bar dining rooms through April 30 — the duration of the Michigan stay-at-home order.

Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at detroit@eater.com.

Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19 [CDC]
County To Begin Drive-Thru COVID-19 Testing As Enhanced Health Order Offers Increased Protection For Residents And Essential Businesses Employees [Oakland County]
The CDC Now Recommends Everyone Use Cloth Masks in Public [Vox]
At Least Five Michigan Grocery Store Workers Have Died From COVID-19 [ED]
How Coronavirus Is Impacting the Detroit Food and Beverage Industry [ED]
All Coronavirus Coverage [E]

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