ROCKVILLE, Md. — Shoppers in Montgomery County are required, beginning April 13, to wear face coverings while in grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail establishments, according to county health officials.
Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles issued an order on April 9 requiring retailers to "establish capacity limits by allowing a small number of customers in the store at a time."
The new order also states that lines outside retail stores must promote social distancing for customers who are waiting for entry into the store.
"We are working on many fronts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Protecting shoppers and store employees is critical," Gayles said.
The order also said that "masks are not advised for children under two years of age, or for people who have difficulty breathing. Masks made for use in health care settings, such as N95 masks, should be reserved for health care workers. Cloth masks are an acceptable alternative for face coverings."
Although there is no civil or criminal penalty for shoppers, businesses have the right to turn away customers who do not comply with the order.
Just this week, leaders in Montgomery County introduced regulations that would require face mask coverings to be worn in public spaces to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Montgomery County councilmembers introduced a new Board of Health regulation that requires employees and customers of essential businesses to wear face coverings when interacting with customers or coworkers.
The regulation was introduced during the Montgomery County Council's virtual meeting.
"Workers at grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, and other essential businesses are putting their lives at risk to keep us all fed and cared for during this emergency," Councilmember Hans Riemer said. "We must do everything we can to protect them. Combined with keeping our distance, staying home as much as possible, and washing our hands, wearing a mask helps protect both the wearer and those around them."
Councilmembers said there would be two phases of the regulation.
The first begins April 16 and would require essential businesses to provide masks for employees who work outside of the employee’s residence, and employees would be required to wear masks when interacting with customers or coworkers. Employees also must be allowed to wash their hands every 30 minutes at minimum.
The second begins April 23 and would require customers to wear face coverings when visiting essential businesses.
"We have a chance to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives by requiring face masks in public," Councilmember Gabe Albornoz said. "This virus is a stealthy adversary, being passed by people who have no symptoms to those around them. Covering our faces in public is just good common sense."
County Executive Marc Elrich and Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine recently announced that county employees would be provided face coverings to wear while performing essential duties that must be done in-person. The same protection should be afforded to all essential workers, they said.