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Los Angeles mandates face masks for restaurant employees

The directive is the latest effort to increase safeguards for staff members providing takeout and delivery service.
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Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants offering takeout and delivery in Los Angeles have been directed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to provide their employees with face masks beginning April 11 as an added protection against the coronavirus.

If the restaurants can’t source the masks, they are required to provide funds for employees to buy or make their own non-medical-grade mouth and nose coverings.

An executive order issued Tuesday by Garcetti also obliges restaurant employers to permit all staff to wash their hands every 30 minutes. Cleansers and hand-sanitizing solutions approved by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health must be provided.

The directive recommends but does not require that a plexiglass barrier be erected between restaurant cashiers and takeout customers or delivery drivers.

The measure also mandates that takeout or drive-thru customers wear a non-medical-grade face mask during the transactions. Customers who aren't wearing facial protection can be turned away.

The steps are the latest in a growing wave of new practices being mandated or voluntarily adopted by restaurants to protect the skeleton crews of employees who are providing takeout and delivery meals. On Sunday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh directed that all nonmedical essential personnel be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

As in many other areas, restaurants there that offer takeout or delivery are regarded as essential businesses permitted to remain in operation while stay-at-home directives are in place for the rest of the workforce.

Many restaurant operations are adopting new safeguards voluntarily. Chick-fil-A, for instance, is installing sinks at drive-thrus and pull-up curbs systemwide so employees providing takeout and delivery orders can wash their hands every 30 minutes or anytime they touch cash throughout their shifts. The brand has publicly vowed to have the hand-washing stations installed chainwide by April 11.

Last week, crew members were advised to request that customers swipe their own cards when paying with plastic.

Employees are apparently not required to wear masks, but Chick-fil-A has alerted customers that they’re likely to see staff members wearing the protective devices.

Chick-fil-A is closely monitoring evolving guidelines and complying with all state and local regulations and mandates regarding restaurant operations,” President Tim Tassopoulos said in an open letter posted on the chain’s website.

McDonald’s units in New York and other areas with high rates of coronavirus infection have installed see-through barriers at their drive-thru windows to lesson chances of the virus being passed during transactions. Staff members have also been given the option to wear masks and gloves.

The chain is also doing “wellness checks” of employees to ensure they’re not showing early signs of COVID-19.

Fight for $15 and Union and other labor advocacy groups have cited the lack of protective equipment as a reason for McDonald’s employees at certain units to walk off the job.

Starbucks has said it was considering a mandate that employees wear masks during their shifts. It has also sent thermometers to units for taking staff members’ temperatures. A fever is often an early sign of a coronavirus infection.

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