Montgomery County Requires Masks for Grocery Shoppers

The Washington suburb announced a new health order intended to slow the spread of Covid-19.

A new health order in Montgomery County, Md. will require shoppers to wear face coverings inside grocery stores, pharmacies and “large chain retail establishments” in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the county said in a press release late Thursday.

The requirement takes effect Monday, April 13; cloth masks can be used to comply with the order.

Among other things, the new health order also requires stores to limit the number of customers allowed inside at a given time and establish social distancing protocols for those waiting in line outside to enter the store.

“We are working on many fronts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Montgomery County’s health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, said in a press release announcing the new order. “Protecting shoppers and store employees is critical.”

Read the full press release:

Montgomery County Health Order Requires Shoppers to Wear Masks at Stores; Latest Effort to Stop COVID-19 Spread Goes into Effect Monday, April 13

For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 9, 2020

             County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today announced that beginning Monday, April 13, shoppers will be required to wear face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies, and large chain retail establishments. The health order also requires that these retailers establish capacity limits by allowing a small number of customers in the store at a time. Lines outside a store must promote physical distancing spaces for customers while waiting. “We are working on many fronts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Protecting shoppers and store employees is critical,” said Gayles. 

            Masks are not advised for children under two years of age, or for people who have difficulty breathing.  Masks made for use in health care settings, such as N95 masks, should be reserved for health care workers. Cloth masks are an acceptable alternative for face coverings.

            These retail stores are required to provide employees with access to clean restrooms stocked with soap and sanitizer. They must allow employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes. Employees must be allowed to wear masks or face coverings.

            In addition, the order requires that these stores comply with existing state and local sanitation requirements and statutes. Any complaints will be investigated according to standard protocols and policy. Violators are subject to a $500 fine, and a $750 fine for each subsequent violation.

            Other safety measures aimed at protecting workers and shoppers include implementing physical distancing measures for workers, customers, and visitors. Appropriate signage and markings to reinforce social distancing and spacing must be displayed.  Businesses who use shared equipment, such as baskets or hand carts, are encouraged to provide sanitation equipment such as disinfectant wipes or alcohol swabs, for individual use.  Businesses are also encouraged to install clear physical barriers between cashiers and customers, where possible.

            Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order on Monday, March 30.  All residents must remain in their homes unless they are essential employees traveling to or from work, obtaining food or medicine or seeking urgent medical care.

  • Be sure to say at least six feet away from anyone who is not a member of your household.
  • Avoid gathering in groups.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 second.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using standard cleaning practices.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, your sleeve, or your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home except to get medical care.

            For the latest COVID-19 updates, visit the County’s COVID-19 website and follow Montgomery County on Facebook @MontgomeryCountyInfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCoMD

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.

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