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Tampa partners with retailers to require essential workers wear face masks

The companies agreed to require employees to wear masks.

The city of Tampa is partnering with several large companies to provide face coverings for local essential workers to protect them and others from the novel coronavirus, Mayor Jane Castor announced Wednesday.

The city is partnering with Publix, Winn Dixie, Home Depot, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, Tampa Electric and TECO People’s Gas, CVS, Walgreens, Moffitt Cancer Center and AdventHealth to get facial coverings to employees whose work requires them to deal with the public.

“Our city staff are on the frontlines, that’s why we are committed to wearing face coverings while out in the public performing essential duties and ask the public to wear face coverings when visiting city facilities. The widespread use of face coverings in our community is a proven and critical step to not only flattening the curve but staying ahead of it.” Castor said.

“Practicing social distancing, regularly washing hands and wearing face coverings are vital steps in reducing the number of new cases. The sooner we move to widespread testing and the use of face coverings, the sooner we will be able to reopen our businesses and get back to our daily lives.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as University of South Florida Public Health have recommended using face masks or coverings. Yet despite that advice, the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group declined last week to mandate use in public, citing concerns for the burden such a requirement would place on small businesses.

Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman were the only two to support the order.

The latest partnership helps alleviate concerns for businesses and furthers widespread use of facial coverings.

“We value the health and safety of our associates and customers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidance as it continues to learn more about the coronavirus. As a result during this national emergency, we are requiring associates to wear face coverings,” a Publix spokesperson wrote in a statement.

The grocery chain had been criticized for not providing face masks for employees.

CVS will also require all of its employees to wear a company-issued mask or cloth face covering, the company said.

CVS will also “encourage our customers to do the same in a collaborative effort to help ensure the health and safety of our community and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The city notes an ongoing shortage of face masks and encourages members of the public to wear homemade coverings when in public in order to retain supplies of medical-grade masks for frontline workers.

Homemade masks can be fashioned from a number of household products include old t-shirts, socks, bras, scarfs or bandanas.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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