Garcetti says essential employees must wear face coverings starting Friday

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday mandated that workers in essential businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants wear face coverings due to the coronavirus outbreak, while also authorizing businesses to refuse service to customers who aren't wearing them.

The mandate, which will apply to a host of businesses including hardware stores, laundromats, taxi and ride-hailing services, hotels and plumbers, will take effect Friday. Employers will be required to provide employees with the non-medical face coverings, or reimburse employees who obtain them on their own.

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Businesses will also be authorized to deny entry to customers who aren't wearing face coverings, he said.

"These businesses that we are singling out ... must also make sure that their employees have access to a clean and sanitary restroom along with proper cleansing products like soap and sanitizer and allow their employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes," Garcetti said.

Businesses will also be required to ensure social distancing is practiced among customers and employees.

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"Our idea is not to be arresting and fining people for the face coverings. This is about self-enforcement," Garcetti said.

But he said the city could issue civil citations if people don't comply.

The mayor also suggested businesses install Plexiglas barriers between employee work stations and customers, but he acknowledged that could take some time to accomplish.

Through the city's LA Protects manufacturing initiative, 800 companies have signed up to produce non-medical-grade masks for essential businesses, and 600 companies have, in total, requested more than 900,000 of them, Garcetti said.

Business can ask for masks and other protective equipment through the website

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, who has been tapped by Garcetti to be the city's chief logistics officer during the coronavirus pandemic, said health care workers and first responders in the city are using N-95 medical-grade masks at a rate of 1.6 million per month, and 3.5 million throughout the county.

Seroka said he is building a stockpile of masks and has secured $20 million to purchase medical goods, including ventilators and other personal protective equipment.

He said the goal is to get 1 million masks to hospitals and other emergency services by the end of this week.

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Garcetti said he is working on an order that would "fill in the gaps" of a City Council emergency ordinance that requires businesses with 500 or more employees to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees affected by the coronavirus outbreak.