As the hot summer wears on, mask usage has become a challenging issue for most people. This article outlines some key questions and answers regarding mask usage.

After COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, health officials began to urge the American public to wear masks to help reduce virus transmission. As a result, over thirty states and numerous cities have implemented ordinances requiring residents and visitors to wear masks in various public settings. The CDC indicates that masks mainly protect others from the respiratory droplets of the wearer, which can carry COVID-19. Further explanation from the CDC on masks can be found here.

Do I need to wear a mask outdoors?

  • In New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, masks are required outdoors if a social distance of six feet cannot be maintained between you and others who are not members of your household.

Can employers require employees to wear masks in the workplace?

  • Yes. However, if an employee cannot endure a mask due to a disability, the employer ought to work with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so long as is does not cause the employer “undue hardship.”

Are certain types of employees required to wear masks?

  • In New York, all employees of essential businesses are required to wear masks, unless it would negatively impact their health.
  • In New Jersey, employees at agricultural businesses, essential businesses, transportation businesses, and construction sites must wear masks, save for circumstances where mask usage would pose a health risk.
  • In Connecticut, employees at offices, restaurants, retail stores, malls, hair salons, and barbershops are required to wear masks, barring a medical condition that prevents usage. The State of Connecticut indicates that if employees have separate workstations, such as cubicles with walls or private offices with doors that close, masks can be taken off within the confines of these isolated workspaces.

What if an employee refuses to wear a mask due to a medical condition?

  • If an employee indicates they cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, this prompts the need for an interactive process between the employer and employee in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers and employees ought to work together to come up with a solution that ensures the safety of all in the workplace. Ideas include, but are not limited to, increasing social distance and asking the employee to don a face shield.

Can I deny a customer access to my business for refusing to wear a mask?

  • In New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, business owners can deny access to an individual who refuses to wear a mask if they are above the age of two and are able to medically tolerate a mask.

If employees wear masks, does the workplace still need to implement social distancing?

  • According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), masks are not meant to substitute social distancing requirements. The CDC also recommends that employers close or reduce the use of communal spaces to the greatest extent possible.

Do masks reduce oxygen levels?

  • OSHA indicated last week that wearing a mask does not reduce oxygen levels or cause unsafe levels of cardon dioxide to accumulate.

Although mandated mask usage is widespread, it is still difficult to enforce due to personal, emotional, and political reasons that arise in this context. As such, effective usage depends on the social responsibility of all Americans.

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