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New L.A. Order ‘Unclear’ on Employer-Provided Mask Mandate

At least some local businesses are confused about a new order requiring them to provide to their employees “well-fitting medical grade” or surgical masks.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Wednesday issued an order that reads: 

“As soon as possible, but no later than January 17, 2022, employers are required to provide their employees, who work indoors and in close contact with other workers or the public, with and require them to wear a well-fitting medical grade mask, surgical mask or higher-level respirator, such as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator or KN95, at all times while indoors at the worksite or facility.” 

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association, the Van Nuys business advocacy group, said he could see the new order having a negative impact as it is doesn’t seem to be “fully baked” at this time.

“The order is not clear what types of masks are acceptable,” Waldman said. “I have had several calls from people really trying to understand (not only) medical grade surgical masks but well-fitted medical grade surgical masks.”

It is easy to understand what a KN95 or an N95 mask is, Waldman continued, but beyond that the order is not clear. 

“For instance, the county gives out blue surgical masks. The question I have had from several people is, are those acceptable?” he said. 

Having only 10 days to procure higher grade masks is going to run up prices and deliveries, and supply chains are already difficult, Waldman added. 

“For small companies to have to compete with large companies, it’s just going to be difficult especially when the rules aren’t clear,” he said. 

In addition, some businesses have expressed confusion about such terms as “in close contact” and “at all times” in the order. If someone works consistently six feet away from colleagues, is that person required to wear a N95 mask at all times? The county has not clarified such matters.

The order was made because of the “recent and drastic” increases in the spread of COVID-19. The order was made Wednesday and became effective at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, although businesses have until Jan. 17 to comply.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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