COVID-19 UPDATE: Governor Hogan’s July 29, 2020 Executive Order Expands Mask Requirements for Marylanders

On July 29, 2020, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued Executive Order No. 20-07-29-01, the latest in a series of executive orders designed to protect Marylanders and control and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Order went into effect at 5:00 PM on Friday, July 31.

The Executive Order expands on a prior order that mandated face coverings in certain situations (e.g., for riders and operators on public transportation, patrons over the age of nine inside retail stores or restaurants, and staff working in retail or interacting with customers in the food service space). Under the new Order, face coverings (defined as “a covering that fully covers a person’s nose and mouth and is secured to the person’s head,” including scarves, bandanas, and plastic full-face shields) are required to be worn by all persons over the age of five when they are:

(1) Using public transportation (defined as any surface transportation system open to the public, including taxis, car services, buses, the MARC and Light Rail train services, the Metro subway system, and ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft);

(2) Inside any location where the public is generally permitted, including religious facilities (churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other houses of worship), retail stores and indoor shopping malls, restaurants, bars, and other food service venues, gyms, indoor recreation (bingo and pool halls, bowling alleys, American Legion and VFW posts, etc.), personal services facilities (beauty and tanning salons, barber shops, and tattoo and massage parlors), and casinos and racetracks;

(3) Outdoors in a scenario where maintaining a distance of at least six feet from individuals who are not members of a single household is not consistently possible;

(4) Obtaining healthcare services, including when inside the offices of doctors, dentists, or other medical providers and inside hospitals, pharmacies, and labs; and

(5) Engaged in work that involves: (a) a likelihood of interacting with others, including in shared commercial office areas; or (b) food being prepared or packaged.

The Order contains seven exceptions. The requirement to wear face coverings does not apply when: (1) “due to a bona fide disability or medical condition,” it would be unsafe for a person to wear one; (2) the use of a face covering would impede communicating by or with a person who is hearing impaired or has another disability and the ability to see a person’s mouth is essential for communication; (3) wearing a face covering would cause a person unsafe working conditions under federal, state, or local occupational safety regulations or workplace rules; (4) the use of a face covering would make it impossible to receive certain services that require a third-party to access the face, mouth, or head area (e.g., dental care, shaving, facial treatment, etc.); (5) a person is consuming food or drink; (6) when a person is engaged in a physical activity where the use of a face covering could present a bona fide safety risk (i.e., swimming); or (7) a person is operating public transportation, but only so long as there is a single operator and the operator is located in a separate compartment off-limits to, and safely distanced by enclosure from, riders.

In short, unless an enumerated exception applies, Marylanders over the age of five are now required to wear face coverings in the public space of any business statewide and in outdoor public areas whenever continual maintenance of physical distancing from others cannot be achieved.

The expanded masking order comes, Governor Hogan’s office stated, with the unanimous support of the Coronavirus Recovery Team and as contact tracing data revealed patterns of behavior and the highest-risk locations where the virus is spreading among Marylanders. 54% of COVID-19 patients interviewed by state contact tracers, the Governor’s office shared, worked outside the home. 39% shopped at retail stores. 23% dined outdoors at a restaurant. Another 23% dined inside. Given these findings, the Governor encouraged businesses to use teleworking when possible, stating that telework “keeps Maryland open” while keeping employees safe.

The team at Ansa Assuncao LLP is available to advise businesses and employers on the Governor’s latest Executive Order and the specific employment and legal issues that arise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact businesses nationwide. Contact our team for assistance.

Heather L. Williams is a Partner in our Maryland office.