St. Louis City and County Issue Orders Requiring Face Coverings

Many employees of essential businesses are weary as they enter their fourth month of work while wearing masks, but face coverings are not going away. No doubt due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, face coverings will be more broadly required in St. Louis City and County beginning on Friday, July 3, 2020. While the St. Louis City and County orders differ somewhat, both point to the fact that face coverings are believed to help stop the spread of the virus, and both provide that face coverings are required for entry and must continuously be worn while inside all businesses and public facilities in the City and County of St. Louis. This Alert summarizes these orders, with a focus on employers’ obligations.

St. Louis County

Under the Order adopted by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health (the “County’s Order”), all persons over the age of 9, including employees or visitors, present at any business or place of public accommodation, whether indoor or outdoor, are required to wear a face covering, excepting health and safety reasons that dictate otherwise. The County’s Order imposes a new posting requirement on all businesses whereby all businesses must post that face coverings are required for entry and that face coverings must continuously be worn while present at the business. Consistent with prior orders, the County’s Order carves out several exceptions from the face covering requirement. For example, persons with health conditions that prohibit wearing a face covering, persons who are consuming food or drink at a place of public accommodation while adequately distanced from others, and persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face are exempted from this requirement. In addition, the County’s Face Covering Guidelines (the “County’s Guidelines”) reiterate that face coverings are not required when persons are working alone in a private office or an enclosed space, and further clarify that face coverings are not required when consuming sacraments or any other food or drink consumed during a religious ceremony or any other ritual service. The County’s Guidelines provide greater definition of what constitutes an acceptable face covering by delineating several examples of face coverings that do not comply. For example, Halloween masks, plastic masks, ski masks with holes for the nose or mouth, or masks that have a one-way valve designed for easier breathing do not comply with the County’s requirements. Further, businesses operating in the County are authorized to deny entry to anyone wearing such “non-compliant” face coverings and to anyone who simply refuses to wear a face covering, unless he or she has a health condition or safety reason not to do so. Consistent with prior orders, the County’s Order reiterates that businesses may neither require individuals to produce medical documentation verifying a medical condition or disability nor ask about the nature of any medical condition or disability. The County’s Order and Guidelines also provide some new examples of when face coverings should not be required for health and safety reasons, such as when a person is hearing impaired, is communicating with someone who is hearing impaired, or has trouble breathing.

City of St. Louis

Today, the City of St. Louis posted its Order No. 11 (the “City’s Order”) requiring all individuals age 9 and older in the City of St. Louis to wear face coverings when inside public facilities, public transportation vessels, and outside when social distancing is not possible. The City’s Order excepts the following persons from the face covering requirement: persons with respiratory conditions; persons who have been instructed by a medical or behavioral health professional not to wear face coverings; persons with disabilities that prevent them from wearing or taking off face coverings or from communicating while wearing face coverings; and while seated in a restaurant or bar and actively engaged in consuming food or drink while adequately distanced from other patrons. At the time of this Alert, the City has not posted any separate guidelines. 

Unlike the County’s Order and Guidelines, the City’s Order does not: (i) impose any posting requirements on businesses; (ii) expressly authorize businesses to refuse entry to those who are not wearing a face covering; or (iii) require face coverings be worn outside where social distancing is possible. The City’s Order also does not define “face covering” or provide any examples of a face covering that will or will not comply with the City’s face covering requirements. However, it seems certain that face coverings consistent with CDC guidelines would be considered adequate.

Under the City’s current Business Office Operating Protocols, employees or volunteers are not required to wear face coverings when working alone in an enclosed area. It remains to be seen whether the City will issue any new guidelines in conjunction with the City’s Order that will modify this particular face covering exception in any way.

If you have any questions regarding these Orders or Guidelines, please contact one of our Labor & Employment attorneys.