Shoppers wear masks as required by government officials in Montgomery County as they line up to enter a grocery store. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Shoppers wear masks as required by government officials in Montgomery County as they line up to enter a grocery store. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

With efforts continuing to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, local officials have joined others around the U.S. requiring citizens to wear face coverings whenever visiting or shopping at larger retail establishments including Giant, Safeway, Target, Walmart and Costco.

In the District, the policy went into effect April 10 with Montgomery County following suit on April 13 and Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties on April 15. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has encouraged citizens to wear face coverings in public but has not required the practice to be mandatory.

The face coverings actions by the leaders of D.C. area jurisdictions followed Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speculation early last week that he might require face coverings in his city when his residents are in public places such as grocery stores. Garcetti moved on that consideration on April 10, ordering customers and workers in retail establishments to comply in his city.

Shortly after the order by Garcetti, nearby Burbank took similar action. In South Florida, jurisdictions such as Miami-Dade County, Broward County and Fort Lauderdale issued orders similar to the ones in Southern California.

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) issued an order on April 7 that stores post signage telling customers to shield their faces with masks or other coverings before entering. The order also encouraged store workers to wear face masks and promoted the use of one-way aisles as a social distancing method to fight the spread of the virus.

On April 9, Bowser updated her previous order on the subject by requiring face covers be worn in grocery stores by customers and employees.

“Our grocery workers are on the front lines of the response to this pandemic,” the mayor said. “All of us need to do everything in our power to keep them safe.”

When it comes to matters such as face masks and covers, Bowser had been following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommend the use of covers in public. Face covers includes masks, household cloths, scarfs and bandanas that, according to the CDC, tend to shield the nose and mouth from virus droplets and germs.

In addition to reviewing CDC guidelines, Bowser solicits the advice of D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt when it comes to the issuance of orders.

While Bowser issued orders on face covers in the District, members of the Montgomery County Council considered authoring a bill that would require its residents to have face covers while shopping at retail businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, farmer’s markets and big-box retailers. However, on April 10, Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles issued an order effective April 13 that largely required what the legislators wanted.

On April 14, Anne Arundel County officials announced that its citizens will have to wear face coverings in retail stores, also.

In neighboring Prince George’s County, Executive Angela Alsobrooks, signed an executive order requiring patrons to wear masks or coverings when entering grocery stores, pharmacies and large retail establishments. In addition, residents who ride the county’s The Bus transit system will be required to have face covers.

Alsobrooks said the safety of county residents and curtailing the spread of the virus served as the purpose of the action.

“The safety and well-being of Prince Georgians during this pandemic is my top priority,” Alsobrooks said. “For the protection of employees who work in these establishments, as well as the customers who need these essentials services, it is critical that each person does their part to cover their faces and minimize their exposure to others.”

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James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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