L.A. orders customers, workers to wear face coverings as coronavirus protection

A Ralphs employee in Westchester monitors how many shoppers are allowed in at a time.
A Ralphs employee in Westchester monitors how many shoppers are allowed in at a time.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced an order Tuesday evening requiring all residents to wear a face covering when visiting the majority of essential businesses, in hopes that it will protect workers and slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Effective Friday, residents must wear a mask, bandanna or other type of covering over their noses and mouths when in grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, coin-operated laundry services, restaurants, hotels, taxis, ride-hail vehicles and several other essential businesses.

“Cover up, save a life — it’s that simple,” Garcetti said.

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Additionally, effective Friday, workers at most essential businesses must wear face coverings, which business owners must either provide or reimburse workers for buying.


If a business refuses to provide face coverings for its workers, it could be fined, but the hope is that businesses and customers will follow the order without issue, Garcetti said.

The order does not require people who are exercising alone outside to wear face coverings, but instead, focuses on when people are in public places where they cannot always remain six feet from others.

“Our idea is not to be arresting and fining people for the face coverings, just as if tomorrow everybody decided to jaywalk across the street, we wouldn’t have close to enough law enforcement officers or city workers to stop everybody from jaywalking,” Garcetti said. “This is about self-enforcement mostly.”

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Some essential businesses are excluded from the order, but the city was working Tuesday evening to clarify which businesses those would be.

The order does not require that customers’ or workers’ face coverings be medical grade or N95 masks. Local and state leaders continue to plead with the public to refrain from buying those masks to ensure medical and emergency workers have enough protective gear to safely perform their jobs.


“All essential, nonmedical workers required to wear these face coverings must frequently (at least once a day) wash any reusable face coverings, for the health and safety of themselves and others,” the order reads. “Single-use face coverings must be properly discarded into trash receptacles.”

But Garcetti said if residents see someone in the grocery store or in public wearing an N95 mask, they shouldn’t assume the person is not following the order.

“There are people who are immuno-compromised who do need to wear those masks,” Garcetti said.

The mayor’s decision came the same day that the Los Angeles City Council discussed passing a similar measure.

During a Tuesday meeting, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz donned a bandanna covering his nose and mouth and pushed for an emergency ordinance to require Angelenos to wear some kind of covering whenever they leave their homes — although he stressed that there would be no punishment for failing to do so. But a majority of council members balked at immediately pushing forward with the plan, with some raising concerns about uneven access to masks.

“Everybody has some cloth in their home. There are all kinds of different ways to do this,” Koretz said. “There is no downside to this. There’s only an upside.”

Later in an interview Tuesday evening, Koretz called the mayor’s order “a big step in the right direction,” but said he would like Los Angeles to go even further and mandate masks or other facial coverings whenever Angelenos leave their homes.

Requiring facial coverings in grocery stores and other essential businesses “gets us a lot of the way there,” Koretz said, “but people still walk dogs. They still ride bicycles. They still may stop and chat with their neighbors.”

Even if the city does not ticket and fine people, he argued that if wearing masks were the law — rather than a recommendation — people would change the way they behaved through “peer pressure.”

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L.A. is one of many places in California requiring face coverings in public.

The Carson City Council on Tuesday night voted to require face coverings. The city’s disaster council — composed of the mayor, the city manager, the assistant city manager and a captain from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Carson station — had already approved the measure.

The city of Lancaster’s face covering ordinance was approved Friday.

“The city is not requiring a specific type of mask and certainly do not want to take away from medical professionals who will need medical grade masks,” the city said in a recent update to residents. “We are simply requiring that your nose and mouth be covered; whether it’s with a homemade mask, a bandanna, or a piece of fabric that acts as a physical barrier between your mouth and nose and the immediate environment around you.”

San Bernardino County and Riverside County both in recent days ordered residents to wear face coverings for essential tasks.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco clarified for residents Monday that, although the county is requiring they wear face coverings when in public, the department wouldn’t be setting up “any type of police state” in Riverside County.

Deputies also won’t be stopping vehicles, or setting up checkpoints for motorists, and they won’t be stopping residents while they are out on a walk with their families. Deputies also won’t stop or ticket residents simply for not wearing a mask, he said.

“I am pleading to you, my fellow Riverside County residents, for your cooperation and voluntary compliance with the orders given by our governor and county health officer,” Bianco said in a video message Monday. “If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for me. Do it for my family. Do it for your family.”

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said face coverings are beneficial for trips to grocery stores, but his administration stopped short of telling Californians to wear them outside.

“We put out guidelines that if individuals want to have face coverings, that is a good thing and a preferable thing, in addition to the physical distancing and the stay-at-home order,” Newsom said. “We have been very clear that if you are going into an environment where physical distancing is all but impossible, for example, into a grocery store with small aisles and a long queue, that we do believe it would be additive and beneficial to have a face covering.”

Times staff writers Kailyn Brown, Taryn Luna and Dakota Smith contributed to this report.