How are mask-wearing policies changing as U.S. COVID-19 cases spike?
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COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking — from Florida and South Carolina, to Texas, Arizona, California and Washington. And the response from state officials is all over the map.
Washington’s governor just mandated all state residents wear masks in public. In Florida and Texas, that’s optional, so some local officials are mandating mask-wearing on their own.
All of this leaves consumers, and the businesses trying to serve them, confused.
Take Joely Gerber, for example. She is 27 and just finished her second year of law school — remotely — in New York.
She really wanted to fly home to LA this summer, but the coronavirus has made her reconsider.
“You know when you sit watching the news all day you get very freaked out — that it’s very easy to catch it, the numbers just keep going up,” Gerber said.
A lot of Americans face the same dilemma. They want to go places but feel safer staying home.
And, so far, hunkering down is winning. TSA passenger screenings have fallen 75% since last year, said Skift Airline Weekly editor Madhu Unnikrishnan.
“There’s still a significant number of people who say they just don’t feel comfortable jumping on an airplane,” Unnikrishnan said.
The main reason, he said: lax and inconsistent health and safety rules, for passengers and crew.
For instance, at LAX they’re starting to temperature-screen passengers.
“That’s not true at other airports. Most airports are recommending facial coverings, but not all are requiring them,” Unnikrishnan said.
Most airlines require masks in-flight, but only a few threaten to ban noncompliant passengers.
“Since there is no overarching law that requires these things, it’s up to us to find out. It’s just a hodgepodge and it’s just a mess,” Unnikrishnan said.
Businesses of all kinds are facing pretty much the same mess of overlapping federal, state and local guidelines. Meanwhile, they need to bring in customers, while keeping their employees safe from infection.
It’s kind of a minefield, said employment lawyer Lynne Anderson at Faegre Drinker.
“Even if a business has decided to require that all customers wear a mask, not all customers want to wear a mask,” Anderson said.
In the end, Gerber decided to fly home to LA.
“I felt like, I haven’t seen my family in a few months, ultimately I decided it was worth taking a calculated risk,” she said.
Everyone on the flight wore a mask. Gerber’s fine, and so are her 60-something parents.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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