With apologies to William Shakespeare, these past couple of weeks have been rather confusing, with two of the major federal agencies leading the battle against COVID-19 – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – issuing somewhat, well, inconsistent guidance on the use of cloth face coverings or masks.
For many months now, the CDC has told us that cloth masks help to control the spread of COVID-19 by providing a barrier to help prevent the wearer’s respiratory droplets from reaching others – but that the masks did not protect the wearer. And because such cloth masks had no protective function, OSHA naturally declared that they were not personal protective equipment (PPE), which is significant because there may be OSHA-mandated employer obligations relating to the use of PPE in the workplace (e,g. fit testing, training, documentation, etc.).