Post coronavirus, will face masks at work be the new normal?

Some companies are already requiring workers to wear masks

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As more officials urge people to cover their faces in public to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, wearing masks to the office could be the new normal. 

"Since recent studies indicate that people expel viral particles while talking and breathing, wearing a mask is essential when they return to work," Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told FOX Business.  "Additional research also reveals that people may spread the virus without any symptoms at all or two to three days before they may develop symptoms, making wearing a mask more important than ever." 

First Lady Melania Trump urged the public to wear face masks on Thursday.

Glatter said that once widespread testing for COVID-19 is in place healthcare workers will be better able to determine who is infected and who may be immune or at risk for contracting the virus, but until then, "wearing a mask should be part of your workplace attire in the world of COVID-19," Glatter said, adding "Even with some encouraging news, we must not let up on physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and meticulous hand hygiene." 

Meanwhile, governments are ordering people to wear masks in public, and companies are requiring essential employees to wear masks when they report to work. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti mandated masks for employees and customers at non-medical essential businesses like grocery stores starting Friday. He also said that businesses should deny service to those who do not wear face coverings. 

Ana Chesley, left, and Michaela Barry wear masks made by one of their roommates in Boston. The CDC Friday reversed their previous guidance, urging everyone to wear non-medical cloth face coverings outside their homes to curb the spread of the corona

The Worker Protection Order will also apply to convenience stores, pharmacies, warehouse stores, dry cleaners, moving services, taxis, ride-sharing services, hotels, restaurants and drive-throughs. And employers will need to give their workers non-medical face masks and uphold social distancing practices among staff and customers.

The order comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended masks in public for those who are healthy, even if it’s a scarf or bandana. Health officials and authorities were initially concerned that if the public were mandated to wear face masks it would further deplete the supply of N95 face respirators and lose-fitting surgical masks for medical workers. However, considering that 25 percent of people with the coronavirus are asymptomatic, face coverings are now seen as crucial for preventing the wearer from unknowingly spreading COVID-19.

A man wearing a scarf as a facemask rides his bike in Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

A number of companies have already mandated that employees wear face masks to work. Ride-hailing app Uber announced on Thursday it would provide millions of drivers and Uber Eats food delivery workers around the world with face masks to contain the spread, Reuters reported.

"We’ve ordered tens of millions more masks and expect them to arrive in other cities and regions around the world in the coming weeks," the company’s blog post said, noting that supplies were limited with medical workers taking a priority.

JPMorgan Chase is planning to give face masks to thousands of its staff members who still work at its offices and branches, according to Seeking Alpha. Of more than 257,000 employees, 30 percent of the company's staff are still working from offices. 

Amazon, the parent of Whole Foods, said it would provide workers with face masks at all of its U.S. and European warehouses plus Whole Foods stores last week, a step to help ensure the safety of workers on the frontlines of COVID-19. 

"Distributing masks across our stores is an additional preventative measure Whole Foods Market is taking to support the health and safety of our Team Members and Prime Now shoppers who continue to provide critical services in our communities," a spokesperson for Whole Foods told Fox Business in an email. 

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And Walmart, the country's largest employer, said it would also supply its employees with masks.  And as of Tuesday, Starbucks workers were required to wear face masks while at work. The coffee shops will also have thermometers on hand for staff members. 

They're small steps to combat exposure to the virus many essential workers face. In the U.S., workers at nearly 20 warehouses at least have tested positive for COVID-19, according to reports. 

When the president announced last week that everyone should wear masks, demand skyrocketed, resulting in more Americans making their own masks out of fabric and cloth sewed together. And on Thursday, the First Lady urged Americans to wear face coverings in public. 


Companies like New Balance, Nike and Hanes have pivoted production to create more masks to combat the supply shortage.