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MOCA now requires upgraded face coverings: No cloth masks

A MOCA visitor in an KN95 mask.
A MOCA visitor wears a KN95 mask in one of the museum’s galleries in November.
(From MOCA )

The Museum of Contemporary Art has a new dress code. No more cloth — masks, that is.

On Tuesday, MOCA announced that it has updated its mask policy. The museum now requires all visitors to wear surgical, N95, KF94 or KN95 face masks when inside its Grand Avenue and Geffen Contemporary locations.

Cloth masks are no longer acceptable,” MOCA posted on Twitter.

The new policy raises the bar for museum safety in Los Angeles.

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As Omicron continues to surge — with L.A. county reporting 266,000 new coronavirus cases in the last week alone, bringing the total number of infections in the region to more than 2 million — MOCA felt its current mask policy wasn’t up to snuff. The museum has required visitors to wear masks indoors since its reopening in May. And in mid-December, California ordered a statewide mask mandate go into effect for all indoor public spaces through at least Feb. 15.

But mask quality varies, with loose, cloth face coverings being among the least effective, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“We made the decision last week to require all staff and visitors to wear medical grade masks,” MOCA’s director of education and visitor engagement, Catherine Arias, says. “We were watching a lot of the new research that’s been coming out about the relative efficacy of the different mask types, and public health officials across the country and the world have been saying that with Omicron, what you really need is a medical grade mask.”

Neck gaiters are a definite no-no, too. “Cloth masks, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas, and face coverings containing valves, mesh material, or holes of any kind are not acceptable,” MOCA posted on Instagram.

MOCA hasn’t made any other updates to its COVID safety policies. It’s still requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours, and it’s still operating at 75% capacity.

The museum isn’t worried about the more restrictive mask policy potentially turning away visitors.

“I feel like the public has been moving with us,” Arias says, “accommodating the public health guidelines as they continue to evolve.”

So what will MOCA do with all those limited-edition cloth masks, designed by nine artists — including Pipilotti Rist, Virgil Abloh, Catherine Opie and Yoko Ono — that sell for $28 in its gift shop?

“MOCA masks are still available via the MOCA store, both online and in person, and each purchase directly supports MOCA,” Arias says. “Often our staff and visitors will layer a surgical mask with a cloth mask, like the MOCA artist designed ones, to add in some cool flare and personal style.”

“We just want to be able to have as many people as possible enjoy the museum,” she adds, “and the best way to do that is keep people safe.”


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