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McDonald’s is adding masks and protective barriers as its coronavirus steps evolve

The chain is taking extra precautions to protect workers and employees, prioritizing hot spots.
Photograph courtesy of McDonald's Corp.

McDonald’s is adding protective barriers to its front counters and drive-thrus and is giving more workers the option to wear masks and gloves as it takes further steps to address concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The additions will be focused initially on “hot spots” where the virus is at its worst and are designed to assuage employees’ and customers’ concerns about the restaurants’ role in preventing the spread of the disease.

They also come as the Chicago-based burger giant continues to change its approach to the virus. McDonald’s, like many other restaurant chains trying to combat the pandemic, has announced plans to take additional steps to protect workers and customers.

On Wednesday, for instance, the company said it would start requiring each employee to undergo wellness checks to ensure they do not have symptoms and have not been exposed to someone who does.

Those screenings will include temperature checks, and the company is making thermometers available to its restaurants. Franchisees operate the vast majority of McDonald’s nearly 14,000 U.S. restaurants.

“Every day is different,” said David Tovar, vice president of U.S. communications for McDonald’s. He said the senior leadership team is meeting three times a day. “We’ve made a lot of adjustments, as have other restaurants.”

“That’s part of the challenge,” he said. “We’re obviously a very big company. We have some size and scale. In this environment, you have to remain very nimble and be able to change at a moment’s notice.”

The company said it would make gloves available to operators for workers who would feel more comfortable wearing them. McDonald’s has a regular supply of gloves, though Tovar said that even if employees do wear gloves, they must still wash their hands, based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Masks, he said, are trickier, given the lack of supply and heavy demand. But the company has been able to supply non-medical-use masks, and said it would make those available to employees in hot spots who would feel more comfortable wearing them.

In so doing, McDonald’s is joining a growing number of retailers and restaurants that remain open and are starting to supply masks to workers. Starbucks on Wednesday said it was exploring the use of non-medical grade masks, too.

The masks have a limited supply, so the chain is prioritizing restaurants in hard-hit areas. “We would like to make them available to everyone,” Tovar said. “As we get more supply, we’ll be able to expand on that.”

McDonald’s said it is making floor decals available to its restaurants to encourage social distancing, ensuring customers are standing far enough apart.

The chain also plans to make plexiglass barriers available to operators. The barriers would separate order takers from customers. In the drive-thru, plexiglass inserts in windows would feature holes for money and food.

The company is also bolstering its cleaning procedures, including cleaning high-touch areas every two hours, with a final disinfection every day.

“Grocery stores are great, but they don’t necessarily fill the need for everybody,” Tovar said. “Many people don’t cook. Many don’t have time, because they’re first responders and medical professionals who are still out doing their jobs. In many cases, they need hot food options, which we can provide.”

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