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Councilmembers propose making face masks required in Montgomery Co. essential businesses

The regulation will be introduced and voted on at the Council’s virtual meeting on April 14.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — At least five councilmembers in Montgomery County are looking to require those in its jurisdiction to wear a face mask while interacting in certain essential businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies. 

While this is not law, the proposed new Board of Health regulation would require employees and customers of essential businesses to wear face coverings when interacting with customers or co-workers. The regulation will be introduced and voted on at the Council’s virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 14. 

Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Gabe Albornoz are the lead sponsors, and Council President Sidney Katz, Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and Evan Glass are co-sponsors, according to Council officials.

"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." 

If passed, the regulation would have two phases that would be implemented as part of the regulation. 

Below is how the regulation would be implemented:

Beginning April 16, 2020, essential businesses will be required to provide face coverings for employees who work outside of the employee’s residence, and employees will be required to wear masks when interacting with customers or co-workers. Beginning April 23, customers will also be required to wear face coverings when visiting essential businesses. The Council may consider amendments to require certain social distancing measures or other measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The proposed regulation is something that comes after the White House coronavirus task force sent down guidance, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that voluntarily suggested that Americans wear face masks. 

RELATED: White House expected to urge Americans to wear cloth masks to combat coronavirus spread

Essential businesses are often now being considered part of the front lines to the coronavirus. And workers at these businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies, have fallen victim to the virus. 

Just last week, a Giant Food employee in Largo, Maryland, died due to complications from the coronavirus. 

RELATED: Giant grocery store employee in Largo dies after being diagnosed with coronavirus

"We have a chance to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives by requiring face masks in public," Councilmember 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." 

Councilmembers in Montgomery County have already acknowledged that county employees are being provided face masks for the essential jobs they are performing.

In order to act quickly in response to an ongoing health emergency, the Council President has waived the normal public input process for this new regulation. However, the Council does seek written input, which can be provided by email at county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov or on social media using #MoCoFaceCoverings.

See the CDC’s guidance on face masks here, and advice on making and using cloth face coverings here.

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