Public Health Order
Please see the information below that was provided by the Health Department regarding the recent Public Health Order:
- Has something changed to necessitate this Public Health Order?
Widespread community transmission, rapid increase in the number of cases, and concern for exposure in retail locations and public transportation. Greater evidence now of asymptomatic transmission, which cloth face coverings can assist in preventing.
- Will the St. Mary’s County Health Department be distributing facemasks to community members or businesses that need them?
The order was issued with guidance on how community members can make their own cloth face coverings, including those that do not require any sewing.
- Cloth face coverings aren’t protection - Wouldn’t a surgical mask protect you better?
At this time, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores, pharmacies, other retail establishments serving the public), especially in areas of significant community spread. Wearing a simple cloth face covering may also help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by people who may have the virus but are not yet showing symptoms or do not know it.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that should continue to be reserved for higher-risk individuals, healthcare workers, and other medical first responders, given their limited availability.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Are employees who work in office or cubicle settings without customer contact required to wear face masks during work?
The order is intended to address public settings where social distancing may be difficult to maintain, including retail locations that serve the public in their facilities. At this time, the recommendation is not for settings where you are separated from others. If there is a concern for close contact with co-workers, you may want to consider wearing a cloth face covering.
- What about on construction job sites - Will they be required there?
These are not included in the public health order. Residents in all jobs may want to consider cloth face coverings if occupationally safe and if there is exposure to other individuals (co-workers or consumers) without social distancing.
- Are food service facilities considered retail establishments?
Where it is difficult to maintain social distancing would be the prime focus of the order.
The point of sale area at the carry-out, curbside pick up, and delivery if social distancing cannot be maintained. Food preparation areas if employees are not able to maintain social distancing.
- How is the order enforced? If a customer is not wearing a "proper face covering" (e.g., T-shirt pulled up over face) should they not be allowed to enter a retail facility?
Citations or fines for individual community members that refuse to comply are not a part of this particular order. Customers who refuse to wear a face-covering due to medical conditions, disability, or choice will not be subject to citations, fines, or actions of law enforcement. The retail store will not be held accountable for enforcing the order on shoppers nor will the business be held liable for such guest actions. Retail establishments that serve the public in their facilities should post signage for their consumers and implement a plan for social distancing. They may receive corrective guidance or action if the organization is not maintaining disease prevention methods such as social distancing and use of cloth face coverings for employees who are able to safely wear them. Employees with trouble breathing, medical conditions or disabilities that prohibit the use of cloth face coverings or facemasks would not be expected to wear one - no special approval from the health department is needed.
SMCHD is happy to work with the store’s social distancing plan - They should contact our Environmental Health Division at 301-475-4321 for additional assistance. At this time the order does not include specific numbers of people per square footage. The goal is to maintain safe social distancing in the stores among employees and customers. Retailers are encouraged to monitor volumes and set their own criteria for numbers as their ability to maintain social distancing may also be influenced by other strategies they are implementing in their stores.
Plastic face shields or other types of face-covering/masks are fine if that's what people want to wear. Pulling up their t-shirt to cover their nose/mouth is fine too. Again, the purpose of this order is to increase the number of people wearing face coverings, not to implement law enforcement on the ones who do not. We can use other strategies with retailers to help support them in protecting their employees.
- Who should not wear cloth face coverings?
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove it without assistance.
- Do you need a mask if you're in your car for drive-thru/drive up/curbside pickup under this new order?
Cloth face coverings are not required by this order for consumers in their personal vehicles getting essential goods or food via drive-thru/drive-up or delivery. However if you are concerned about possible close contact with others during your pickup/delivery, you may want to consider wearing a cloth face covering.