Retail’s reopening has stalled amid a spike in COVID-19 infections, and industry trade groups are calling on the federal government to help.
On Friday, the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) published an open letter to President Trump, imploring him to take a firm stand on the issue of mask wearing as a means of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
“As we enter the next stage of our COVID-19 response and recovery, we are confronted with a stark choice,” AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar wrote. “If we do not require widespread use of face masks in enclosed public spaces, we will likely endure additional widespread business shutdowns.”
Lamar wrote in support of the “quick development and publication of national face mask usage standards to promote widespread face mask wearing in enclosed public spaces.” Based on medical guidance, such a measure could help consumers avoid confusion about how the virus spreads, and would help to save “lives and livelihoods” in the months ahead.
AAFA, which represents more than 1,000 American brands that employ nearly four million U.S. workers, said it was joined by other business groups and medical professionals making similar requests of the federal government.
While the use of face masks alone can’t prevent transmission, it can greatly limit the spread of COVID-19 when employed in conjunction with other measures like social distancing and rigorous hand washing. A University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation study estimated that the practice could save thousands of lives, while Goldman Sachs economists recently stated that a national face mask mandate could prevent another series of lockdowns that would save 5 percent of the U.S. annual GDP.
The AAFA sent letters with similar pleas to the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, and the United States Conference of Mayors.
“Many of our members have been on the front lines of this aspect of the COVID-19 response,” Lamar wrote, referring to the production and distribution of face masks and other personal protective equipment, along with retail roles that require workers to interface with the public.
“Unfortunately, the lack of a national face mask usage standard—combined with conflicting messaging and unevenly enforced local requirements regarding face masks—make those front lines tenuous and stymies our collective efforts to stop COVID-19,” he added.
The president’s leadership is critical in ensuring that American citizens and the economy return to full health, he said, adding, “we want to return to work, we want to stay at work, and we want to do so in a safe manner.”