L.A. public health officials require employers to provide high-quality masks to workers

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Employers in Los Angeles County will soon be responsible for providing high-quality masks for employees who work indoors and near others, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

As the omicron variant continues to drive a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the department stipulated that by Jan. 17, indoor workers who spend time “in close contact” with other employees must be given “well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks.”

“These upgraded masks are better at blocking virus particles from going through the mask,” the department said in a press release.

On Monday, Public Health announced it would require high-quality masks to be worn by all public and private school employees in the county.

While the mask-supplying requirement has a deadline of Jan. 17, officials want employers to begin providing high-quality face coverings “as soon as possible.”

The matter of who will provide masks was not the only topic covered in Public Health’s Wednesday update.

The department also suggested that at venues such as movie theaters, performance spaces and others, eating and drinking be confined to “designated dining areas.”

The release noted that “vaccinations alone are not sufficient to prevent the spread of Omicron,” and Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer added that county residents will have to focus on “layering on protections whenever around non-household members.”

“At work, this means upgrading your mask if you work indoors and you are in contact with other workers or members of the public,” Ferrer said in the release. “At entertainment venues, this means limiting the time you spend without wearing your upgraded mask. And for other activities, this may mean postponing your participation until community transmission is much reduced.”

The county’s updated health officer order follows California’s extension of the statewide indoor mask mandate to Feb. 15, a one-month addition to the mandate that went into effect in December.

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