When I was in college, I performed in the pit orchestra for at least a dozen performances of the comic operetta Die Fledermaus written in 1874 by Johann Strauss of waltz fame (think Blue Danube Walz). The operetta, whose name translates to “the bat,” is about a practical joke run amok.
The operetta is famous for its masked ball, with many characters, masked and in formal attire, pretend to be someone they are not. People dance the waltz to Straus’ music, pledge friendship, and engage in scandalous flirtations.
Eventually, everyone is unmasked, embarrassing many. In a final song during the ball, everyone blames the mishaps on excessive consumption of champagne and continue their partying–and champagne consumption.
Die Fledermaus was written just a year after the Panic of 1873, an economic crisis that triggered bank failures and years of depression. The operetta’s levity might have brought relief from the financial woes. But its content and its premiere, at the equivalent of a Vaudeville house, on Eastern Sunday, no less, was scandalous.
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a different type of mask has been in the news. We have heard about shortages of N95 respirators, which help protect medical personnel from inhaling airborne contaminants, such as the COVID-19 virus. And we have heard about cloth face masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people wear in public when social distancing isn’t feasible.
Until now, the CDC’s face mask guidance was a recommendation–not a requirement. However, that is changing for people in Montgomery County, Maryland, who, starting April 13, 2020, will be required to wear cloth face masks in many public places.
This article is part of a series discussing COVID-19. Previous articles in this series are available in my Bach to Business blog. This article discusses Montgomery County’s and other local government’s face mask requirements.
Montgomery County’s Face Mask Requirement
On April 9, 2020, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Health Officer announced that starting April 13, 2020 shoppers must wear face coverings (called “face masks” in this article) in grocery stores, pharmacies, and large chain retail establishments (“Covered Retail Stores”).
The Health Order also requires Covered Retail Stores to
Establish and enforce capacity limits.
Promote physical distancing in lines outside of stores.
Provide employees with access to clean restrooms stocked with soap and sanitizer.
Allow employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes.
Allow employees to wear masks or face coverings.
Comply with existing state and local sanitation orders and requirements
The Health Order notes that masks shouldn’t be used on children under age two or people who have difficulty breathing but doesn’t specify whether parents should exercise additional safeguards if they must take small children to Covered Retail Stores.
Other Places With Face Mask Requirements
New Jersey was the first state to issue an order requiring that people wear face masks. New Jersey’s order requires that people wear face masks on public transit, when picking up food from bars and restaurants, and when in retail establishments and manufacturing and warehousing businesses. New Jersey also has banned “non-essential construction” and requires individuals engaged in “essential” construction to wear face masks.
Many counties and cities nationwide also now have orders requiring face masks. Most only require face masks when people are in public places, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, or other retail establishments.
However, requirements vary, and some jurisdictions require that people wear face masks whenever they leave their homes. Individuals should check with their state and local governments regarding requirements in their locations.
Following are links to descriptions of several local jurisdictions’ face mask requirements:
Beverly Hills, California–Effective April 10, 2020, everyone must wear face masks when outside of their homes.
Los Angeles, California–Effective April 10, 2020, employees and customers of business must wear face masks. Employers must provide the employees with face coverings.
Miami-Dade County, Florida–Effective April 10, 2020, requires face masks in grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, construction sites, public transit vehicles, vehicles for hire, and other locations where social distancing measures are impossible.
Monroe County, Florida–Effective April 8, 2020, requires employees and customers in grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, food distribution points, hardware stores, and other essential businesses where more than ten people may be present to wear face masks.
Osceola County, Florida–Effective April 13, 2020, with some exceptions, everyone must wear face coverings in public places. Osceola County also has a curfew order.
Prince George’s County, Maryland–Effective April 15, 2020, people will be required to wear face masks in grocery stores, pharmacies, and large chain retail stores and on public buses.
San Bernardino County, California–Everyone must wear face masks outside of their homes.
What Type of Face Mask and How to Wear It?
The CDC and most local governments clarify that N95 masks, surgical masks, and other protective gear should be reserved for medical and emergency personnel and others who need them. Instead, individuals should use a cloth face mask that covers their noses and mouths.
The New York Times published a terrific article that describes types of masks and compares the efficacy and breathability of various mask materials. The article also provides tips on proper face mask positioning.
In addition, social media are replete with instructions for making face masks at home, offering both sewing and no-sew patterns. Since my sewing machine dates to 1972 and was last serviced in the 1980s, I tried the no-sew bandana and rubber band face mask for my weekly grocery shopping. My face mask wouldn’t have passed as a fashion statement, but it did provide several layers of material covering my nose and mouth.
Unlike the masks in Die Fledermaus, today’s face masks aren’t supposed to conceal people’s identities. And unlike in Die Fledermaus, no one should be embarrassed by wearing a mask.
However, a face mask can convey information about the wearer. The fabric used for the face mask can show the wearer’s favorite sports team or fictional character. And, the choice to follow CDC’s recommendation to wear a face mask when social distancing isn’t feasible, absent a legal requirement, conveys that the wearer cares about others in the community.
© 2020 by Elizabeth A. Whitman
Any references clients and their legal situations have been modified to protect client confidentiality
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