Facial expressions are about to take on a whole, new meaning while the coronavirus continues to affect the lives of everyone in the state. An updated executive order from Gov. Janet Mills includes the requirement of wearing cloth face coverings “in public places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain,” including grocery stores and takeout food lines.
While wearing face coverings has been an evolving topic since the pandemic made its way into the country and the state, the new requirement has brought questions about what people are now required to wear when out and about.
Here are some answers:
Question: Why has the directive to the public changed from not wearing a face cover to being required to wear a cloth face cover in public?
Answer: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites “new data about how COVID-19 spreads” in its recommendation for people to wear cloth face coverings in public. The CDC states that “recent research indicates that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 do not experience symptoms, and that those who go on to develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before feeling sick. While a cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others.”
Q: What face covers are acceptable for use in public?
A: The latest executive order from Mills uses federal CDC guidance that defines a cloth face covering “covers the nose and mouth and fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face; is secured with ties or ear loops; includes multiple layers of fabric; allows for breathing without restriction; and is able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to its shape.”
Q: How can the public get access to a cloth face cover?
A: The governor, in a news release announcing the updated executive order, “is encouraging Maine people to make their own cloth face coverings from common materials or to purchase them from a Maine-based company to support local businesses. The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership has compiled a list of Maine companies producing face coverings, which the Administration is sharing with Maine people as a resource.”
The federal CDC suggests cloth face coverings can be made from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost.
Q: Who is exempt from wearing a face cover in public?
A: As part of Mills’ updated executive order, “cloth face coverings are not required for children under age 2, a child in a child care setting, or for anyone who has trouble breathing or related medical conditions, or who is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
The executive order further states that “a person who cannot wear a cloth face covering because of a medical condition is not required to produce medical documentation of the condition, provided that an employer may require such documentation from an employee in accordance with state and federal law.”
Q: How often do I need to wash my face cover?
A: According to guidance from the federal CDC, cloth face covers “should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.” The CDC states that a washing machine should suffice in cleaning a cloth face cover.
Q: What are the rules for employers and employees, in terms of wearing face covers?
A: As part of a general guidance checklist produced by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, employers must ensure that employees have access to cloth face coverings. The governor’s executive order does make an exception: “Employers in settings that are not typically accessible to the public may determine the persons who should wear a cloth face covering at their workplace and shall permit any employee who wants to wear a covering to do so.”
As part of a checklist for cosmetology and barbering businesses, in regards to hair services, employees and practicing business owners are required to wear face masks at all times, “as long as there is not a face mask shortage for health care.” The checklist states that cloth coverings are not acceptable. The checklist also suggests to consider providing face masks to clients.
A separate checklist for dog grooming states “Face covering is encouraged for both groomers and clients.”