Why one LA business wants employees to mask 'indefinitely' as Delta variant rises

In Los Angeles, county health officials are now “strongly” recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The county suggests people use them in large group settings like grocery or retail stores, theaters and other places when people’s vaccination status is unknown. Because verification is difficult, some places continue to require their frontline employees to wear masks — such as With Love Market and Cafe, where founder and operator Andrew McDowell told his staff last week they will be wearing their masks “indefinitely."

During the worst days of COVID-19, mask mandates became a cultural and political flashpoint between supporters and opponents of public health policy, especially in epicenters like California and New York. Local businesses, already struggling to adapt to post-pandemic life, now have yet another pill to swallow. 

"The focus for us really is, what are the things we need to put in place to make sure our staff are safe, and safe staff [is] going to mean safer customer [s]," McDowell told Yahoo Finance Live this week.

“If we keep changing and yoyo-ing, it's going to be a challenge for us,” he added. “We just have to do the best that we can, to be safe and consistent, and just wait this out. There's no reason to rush back.”

Monday’s recommendation came only two weeks after Governor Gavin Newsom reopened California and lifted the statewide mask mandate. However, the World Health Organization has said vaccinated people should continue to wear masks, noting the spread of the Delta variant.

Yet the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention no longer calls for vaccinated people to wear masks in most indoor settings. L.A. County — which has seen new cases inch higher — felt the need to issue the new guidance given the rate of spread in the area.

However, it also puts business owners, who have been caught by surprise, in a bind as they navigate public health and potentially irate customers.

“If they feel comfortable and they know to keep their distance from folks, then we can encourage people to obey the current guidelines,” McDowell added. “ And if they don't, we're not going to force them out.”

The health department’s recommendation extended only to wearing face coverings. The agency didn’t advise businesses to re-instinute such additional safeguards as keeping guest parties six feet part.

At McDowell’s cafe, he noticed customers are more inclined to wear masks once again following the county’s recommendations.

“People have begun to wear them again the entire time they're here,” McDowell said. “[Even] outside, when they're consuming a coffee or having a sandwich.”

The Delta variant is considered to be far more contagious than previous mutations of the COVID-19 virus and could potentially make patients severely ill.

However, research shows that fully vaccinated people still appear to be protected against the new strains. While vaccination rates vary widely across the Golden State, public health officials declined to issue a similar “mask” nudge to state residents.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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