What do you think of masks?

Strangely, it seems a loaded question of late.  How masks became a political hot potato is something that historians will debate.

Yesterday, Connecticut tried out a new slogan encouraging common-sense use of masks. The new slogan? “If you have to ask, wear a mask”.

But that’s not the full story of course.

In all of the state’s reopening rules, masks (and face coverings) are a key component — in stores, restaurants, offices, even amusement parks.

OSHA has chimed in as well with a new FAQ purporting to recap existing regulations on the subject.

If you read that, though, you might think that employers in Connecticut are exempt from provide masks to their workers now.

Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. As such, OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.

But Connecticut’s rules for reopening all mandate the opposite now.  In rules for offices — which are identical to other sector reopening rules — it states:

• If businesses do not have adequate personal protection, they cannot open.

For employers in Connecticut then, this is the rule to follow for now as it trumps any OSHA requirement.

And what about whether employees should wear a mask at work?

OSHA again takes a decidedly wishy-washy approach stating: “OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work.”

Recommends is not the same as requires.

But Connecticut states the opposite in clear plain terms: “All employees are required to wear a face mask or other cloth face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth, unless doing so would be contrary to his or her health or safety due to medical conditions.”

For employers trying to decipher all of the rules (which seem ever changing), the last few months have made things challenging; the mask debate is only the latest.

But perhaps it’s best to listen to the scientists.

As Jon Hyman cites on his blog post on masks, a recent study this week shows that masks used by the public “could make a major contribution to reducing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Masks may not look pretty at times, but in Connecticut at least, masks are a key part of the state’s reopening plans.