The US footwear and apparel industry has urged the Trump administration to institute federal face mask guidelines to assist retail stores as the country continues efforts to safely reopen.
In a letter addressed to the US President, the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) said it supports the quick development and publication of national face mask usage standards to promote widespread face mask-wearing in enclosed public spaces. If this is not required, it noted additional widespread business shutdowns are “likely.”
“Such usage standards, while based on medical guidance and promulgated nationally to avoid confusion, must be enforced locally,” it added.
AAFA is the national trade association representing apparel, footwear, travel goods, and other sewn products companies, and their suppliers. It represents more than 1,000 brands.
While the organisation noted face masks alone cannot prevent transmission, it said they “do greatly limit the spread” — particularly when used in conjunction with other prudent measures such as proper social distancing and frequent handwashing.
“Simply put, a national face mask usage standard would protect retail employees and customers across the country, as well as remove any confusion amongst US consumers regarding their local face mask requirements,” said AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar.
“Over the past few months, businesses have been working hard to implement safety measures to protect their workers and their customers. However, with differing standards throughout the country, our members are facing situations where their employees need to educate customers on what is required to enter their stores, or even turn customers away.
“One simple, consistent standard at the federal level, mandated and enforced at the state and local level, would go a long way in addressing this confusion and keeping the economy open.”
Versions of the letter were also sent to the heads of the National Governors Association, National Association of Counties, and the US Conference of Mayors.
Concurrently, AAFA requested that the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) consider updates to its Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce advisory to include “facilities that practice safe re-open protocols.”
“Further, as long as our members continue to follow proper safety protocols, they should be allowed to stay open. Many apparel, footwear, and accessory stores now sell masks, face coverings, and other items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Just as important, those stores also sell products that meet a wide variety of other consumer needs — such as affordable back-to-school clothes, shoes, and backpacks for growing children or cold weather articles and boots — especially as winter approaches,” Lamar added.
The first wave of US retailers began to tentatively outline their store reopening plans at the end of April with a view to reopening in early May. However, there are still big variations in how the 50 US states are opening up after lockdown, with some reimposing restrictions following a rise in coronavirus cases.