Scenes at Northgate supermarket ub Boyle Heights stores as result of coronavirus panic. Photo by Pablo de la Hoya for Boyle Heights Beat.

Originally Published April 14, 2020

You’ll now need to wear a face mask (or something that covers your nose and mouth) when you shop in any grocery store or pharmacy in Los Angeles County — and stores can refuse you admission if you don’t. The ordinance, which the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed this morning, goes into effect immediately.

The city of L.A. passed a similar order early last week and some cities, such as Pasadena, have followed suit. This directive brings some uniformity to the patchwork of face mask rules throughout the 88 cities in L.A. County.

“We can’t step back from protecting those who are essential service workers,” says supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the 2nd District and authored the ordinance. “We need to be there for them like they are there for us. They are basically frontline responders and shouldn’t have to put themselves at risk because of working conditions.”

Ridley-Thomas confirmed that this new county ordinance would supersede rules imposed by individual cities. “To the extent that it involves health and safety, the county’s Public Health Department has jurisdiction,” he said.

Under these new rules, grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery platforms (i.e. the apps you use to order food) must either provide workers with non-medical grade face coverings, gloves and hand sanitizer or give workers money to buy these items. Employees, in turn, must wear face coverings and gloves while at work.

Grocery stores and pharmacies must also install plexiglass barriers at any point-of-sale station staffed by an employee and allow employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes.

In addition, grocery stores and pharmacies must provide shopping times dedicated solely for customers age 60 and over. Some stores have already been offering senior shopping hours but the new ordinance makes it a county-wide requirement. (The L.A. City ordinance didn’t include this mandate.)

The order requires food delivery platforms to offer “no-contact” delivery options to to its customers, something most apps already do.

It also says grocery stores and pharmacies must allow drivers for food delivery platforms access to their restrooms “for handwashing purposes,” another requirement that wasn’t in the L.A. City order.

Food delivery apps must also require workers “to wash or sanitize their hands prior to handling any food for delivery.” It’s not clear whether that means they have to wash or sanitize their hands before they start their shift or before every delivery. Drivers at most food delivery apps are contract workers who don’t clock into a central office so it’s unclear how food delivery apps could ensure driver compliance with this regulation.

The ordinance will expire either when California governor Gavin Newsom lifts the statewide emergency order or the Board of Supervisors lifts the local emergency order it issued. Both went into effect on March 4, 2020.


This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2020 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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