Business Groups Seek Clarity on Face Masks

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, other trade organizations want consistent state and local guidelines.

July 09, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers and others are calling for national guidelines for states and localities regarding face masks, reports

Last week, the organizations, along with the Business Roundtable CEO and the American Council of Life Insurers, sent a letter to President Trump, Vice President Pence, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) requesting that the White House coronavirus task force and the National Governors Association (NGA) work together to establish guidance on metrics for imposing face-mask requirements and develop model mandatory mask policies that are simple and don’t leave enforcement up to businesses. Hogan is the chairperson of the NGA, and Cuomo is the vice chairperson. 

The letter stressed that state and local officials should be making the mask-wearing decision and expressed concern over public confusion and low consumer confidence. It cited worries over confrontations between customers and employees who try to enforce an existing mask policy.

In the letter, the associations asked for clarity that businesses and nonprofits will not be held liable for refusing entry or services to an individual who does not comply with face-covering requirements. 

“Current local and state mandatory mask requirements vary widely in scope, application, and enforcement,” the groups wrote. “For example, there is variation on whether the mandate applies to all businesses, to just employees or also customers, and exemptions for age or other health conditions (e.g. asthma). In addition, in some locations the mandate is imposed on businesses for them to enforce. Not only has this led to public confusion and lower levels of consumer confidence, but it has also contributed to confrontations between customers and employees and litigation from both directions—enforcing mask requirements and failing to enforce mask requirements,” the letter states.

The groups requested that the White House task force and NGA establish guidance on the appropriate metrics (positive COVID tests, hospitalizations, etc.) for imposing location-based mandatory mask requirements in public spaces.

“To be clear, the decision to impose face-covering requirements should remain at the state or local level but be informed by clear and consistent guidance based on data,” the organizations’ CEOs wrote. “We believe that a national mask standard, implemented locally, offers the surest way to protect public health and promote economic recovery.”

Pennsylvania, North Carolina, California, Nevada, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, New Mexico, Illinois, Texas and Washington have mandated that citizens wear masks when in public spaces. Florida, which had a total of 223,00-plus reported COVID cases on Tuesday, does not have a statewide mask mandate, but several Florida localities require masks in public. Similarly, other states are considering mandatory mask-wearing policies.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.