Face coverings are one of the few effective tools in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. Along with physical distancing and proper hand washing, wearing a face covering in public significantly reduces the risk of transmitting the virus. Every time we talk, sing, cough, shout or sneeze, we release respiratory droplets. These droplets can travel as far as 6 feet without a face covering or a mask. These droplets may contain COVID-19, which, if they enter into the -nose or mouth of another person, can make that person sick. Proper use of a face covering is a simple, effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
On April 15, 2020, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an Executive Order requiring the use of face coverings for all Marylanders engaged in specific types of businesses. Restaurants, retail businesses, and transportation systems were identified as primary areas for customer usage. The order also described the proper use of a face covering (it should cover both the mouth and the nose). This order is based on scientific evidence and shows that, along with physical distancing and proper hand hygiene, face coverings serve a critical role in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
It is essential that businesses everywhere examine their policies on face coverings and physical distancing for both employees and customers. According to the order, the specific businesses mentioned are required to ensure that their employees are complying with the order. Businesses may opt to enforce customer compliance as well, which is part of their right to refuse service, as a way to reduce the risk to their own employees and customers. Many of these businesses were designated as essential and have continued operating while other businesses shut down. The health of your employees is critical to continuing to stay open for the businesses and for our community, so please make every effort to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus.
Customer compliance and, in some cases, employee compliance for wearing face coverings is tricky. The Frederick County Health Department suggests posting signs conspicuously at entrances and strategic areas in the business. The most effective signage uses creative, thoughtful, calming language – get the point across, but avoid demanding language. Even though the State of Maryland has ordered the use of face coverings in certain public settings, most employees and patrons respond positively to a more educational, less confrontational approach.
There are a few exceptions to the face covering order. People with breathing difficulties and children under the age of nine can choose not to wear face coverings in public areas. The exceptions make it even more critical that people in these categories keep a 6-foot physical distance wherever possible. Businesses are encouraged to work with people who are unable to wear face coverings and offer them alternate options to allow them to get necessary services but reduce the risk to them, other customers, and employees.
COVID-19 will be around for a while; no one can accurately predict when things will return to normal for our community. However, we can all help reduce the opportunities for the virus to spread by following simple guidelines: wash your hands often, keep a 6-foot physical distance around others when possible, and wear a face covering when you are around others who you don’t live with. We can also take time to enjoy the fresh air, stay in touch with friends and families, and continue to support the businesses that are essential to our community. Please remain diligent in your efforts to keep the entire community safe and healthy. #LoveFrederick