Coronavirus Face Mask Requirements and Reopening Information 2021

In late May, Chipotle, Starbucks, CVS, and Target announced that they won’t require fully vaccinated customers to wear masks inside stores, except when required by law. The policy changes come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on mask wearing. Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe’s are also allowing customers to shop without mask if they are fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of Johnson & Johnson.

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Masking is a hot topic and one that small business owners need to pay attention to. In addition to protecting the safety of your workers and shoppers, there are some state laws you must adhere to during this time. However, creative entrepreneurs can comply easily, letting their target audience know they care about their wellbeing. Here’s up-to-date information as of June 2021.

State-by-State Face Mask Requirements

The AARP has compiled a comprehensive list of mask mandates to date. As reopening guidelines are evolving rapidly, please insure you have the correct information.

For example, New York ended face-covering requirements for fully vaccinated people May 19. Masks are still mandated for unvaccinated people over age 2 when in a public place. Businesses and venues may require proof of vaccination to meet remaining mask or social distancing directives. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, masks are required for people over age 5 in any indoor public space and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible.

What is the Most Effective Face Mask?

There are many types of face masks that can keep you safe from the coronavirus. The general public is encouraged to wear reusable cloth masks to limit the spread of the virus.

Cloth masks

According to the CDC, cloth Masks can be made from a variety of fabrics, and many types of cloth masks are available.

Look for:

  • Multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric
  • Nose wire
  • Mask should block light when held up to bright light source
  • Mask considerations tightly woven

Do NOT wear:

  • Masks with exhalation valves or vents
  • Single layer or masks made of thin fabric that don’t block light
  • DO NOT choose masks that have exhalation valves or vents which allow virus particles to escape

Disposable Masks

Disposable face masks (single use face masks) are produced from polymers such as polyester They consist of three layers and are widely available.

Look for:

  • A description indicating multiple layers of non-woven material
  • Nose wire

Do NOT wear:

  • Masks with gaps around the sides of the face or nose
  • If wet or dirty
  • Masks with gaps around the sides of the face or nose

KN95 Masks

KN95 masks are a type of filtering facepiece respirator that are commonly made in China and similar to N95 masks commonly used in the United States.

Look for:

  • KN95 masks that meet requirements similar to those set by CDC’s National Institute for
  • Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for respirators

Do NOT wear:

  • If you have certain types of facial hair
  • Counterfeit (fake) KN95 masks
  • If hard to breathe
  • With other masks; wear KN95 alone only

BE AWARE: About 60% KN95 masks in the United States are counterfeit (fake) and DO NOT meet NIOSH requirements.

How do Face Masks Work Against the Coronavirus?

Masks are now recognized as one of the most effective available tools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This intervention decreases transmission of the coronavirus and is a readily scalable measure to ensure the public's health.

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Face Mask Requirements for Employees

Can you require employees to mask up? In short, yes. You may mandate wearing facemasks in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidelines that indicate an employer may require employees to wear a face mask to reduce transmission. Note that mandates may vary state-to-state. For example, in California, employees must wear masks in specified high-risk situations, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site.

Face Mask Requirements for Customers

Businesses have the right and authority to demand that customers wear masks on their property, according to law enforcement expert Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent and current ABC News contributor. Moreover, failing to abide by a businesses' mask requirement could result in criminal trespass charges. Read the rules and if you have any questions regarding compliance, check with your local government authorities.

Vendors and Face Masks

Make sure your vendors and others who frequent your business are following your policy. Those dropping off supplies should be held to the same standards as you, your employees, and your customers.

Spread the word – not the virus

Once you’re comfortable with your business’ mask policy, the next step is to let your employees, current customers, and potential customers know that you take safety seriously.

There are lots of ways to spread the word about your commitment to safe practices. You’ll elevate your profile in the community, encourage current customers to visit, and attract new shoppers. Here are easy ways to spread the word:

  • Promote safety on Social Media and your website.
    Two of the first stops for consumers checking out a business are your website and your social media channels. Be sure your safety measures are outlined clearly.
  • Use signage
    Print up a banner for your store and go grass-roots by posting flyers around town. Be sure your operations are clear so shoppers know what is required to frequent your business.
  • Hold an event
    If you have a physical location, designate a time to welcome shoppers back. Consider holding an event. You can offer food (if presented safely), hosting a local entertainer, or providing activities for kids. Need convincing? Review this post from our blog: 7 Ways Hosting an Event Can Benefit Your Small Business.
  • Send out an email blast or newsletter
    Clear out bouncing email and add new addresses you’ve recently gathered. Have fresh email signup sheets ready to go for new customers. Send a promotional email, a coupon, or a newsletter.
  • Pitch to local media
    There are a lot of local news outlets hungry for content, especially around small businesses and the coronavirus. Write a press release about your businesses safety practices and offer to be a resource.

Additional coronavirus resources

Visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog regularly for ideas and strategies to help you rebuild safely. Some helpful articles include:

How to Rebuild During the 2021 Pandemic: Marketing, employee management, and safety are the focus of this comprehensive guide.

Solving Small Business Cash Flow Problems During Covid: Here are the reasons you should pay attention to your cash flow to strengthen your business during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Keep Your Business Safe From Coronavirus Scams: Don’t fall for these charity or cybersecurity scams making the rounds in 2021.

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