Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is ordering workers at essential businesses to cover their face starting Friday, when they’ll also be able to deny service to customers who don’t wear masks.
So far, the city has recommended — but not mandated — that people cover their face when venturing into public to prevent the virus’ spread.
Employers will be required to supply essential workers with a mask or reimburse workers for the cost, the mayor said.
The order applies to workers at grocery stores, pharmacies, hotels and restaurants, as well as taxi and ride-share drivers, among others. Those who fail to comply could face a fine or prison time.
L.A. Protects, a city initiative organizing garment manufacturers to make non-medical masks for essential workers, is expected to help supply some businesses. The mayor said 800 companies have already signed up for the project, and so far 384 have been approved for operation.
L.A. will also encourage retail businesses to install plexiglass at checkout counters, but since there’s currently a plexiglass shortage that measure will remain a recommendation for now, Garcetti said.
Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of L.A., said officials there are also working to build a stockpile of medical supplies for local use. The project seeks to create an avenue for medical workers to specify what they need, and for manufacturers and others to respond to that request.
County officials also for the first time on Tuesday released preliminary data on the virus’ distribution among racial groups, showing African Americans are slightly more likely to die from the disease.
Garcetti acknowledged that, “like many things in our society,” the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color, where preexisting conditions like diabetes are more prevalent. But he emphasized that COVID-19 poses a threat to everyone, no matter what area they’re from.
Monday evening, Garcetti announced L.A. County was expanding COVID-19 testing to anyone who is experiencing symptoms. Previously, sick people had to meet additional requirements, like being at least 65 years old or having underlying health conditions.
Garcetti said the county saw a record number of signups for testing following Monday’s announcement.
He offered a tip for people still trying to get an appointment: About 15%-20% of people don’t show up, so check in the afternoon to see if anything has opened up.
The mayor promised to conduct 30,000 tests at drive-thru sites by the end of the week.
Garcetti has said this week will be “critical” in the fight against the virus’ spread, with the impact of our actions now being felt in the next few weeks, when some expect infections statewide to peak.
But state officials maintain that California will hit its peak toward the end of May. Gov. Gavin Newsom says that’s partially due to successful social distancing, which is helping to flatten the state’s coronavirus curve.