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In L.A., It's Now Mandatory For Everyone To Wear Face Coverings

NOEL KING, HOST:

Starting today in Los Angeles, people are going to have to wear masks while they're out in public. Here's Sharon McNary from KPRC.

SHARON MCNARY, BYLINE: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's order requires all nonmedical essential workers to wear cloth face coverings while on duty - grocery and pharmacy clerks, fast food servers, hotel workers. And he went one step further - customers have to mask up, too.

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ERIC GARCETTI: If you're picking up your prescription or visiting any other essential business, you will need to cover your face. And if you're not covering your face, an essential business can refuse you service.

MCNARY: Violations of the order could bring a fine or even jail time, so the order to cover your smile does have some teeth. For now, officials are counting on voluntary compliance. But all these cover-ups mean people need to find other ways to say hi.

Kristina Wong has been meeting new people all over LA as she delivers supplies for a volunteer mask sewing group. And she finds it challenging to come up with the right hand gesture to replace a smile.

KRISTINA WONG: I just find myself going, hello. Thank you for working, like, through my mask and having this, like, love and heroic appreciation for them.

MCNARY: But wearing masks isn't just new and uncomfortable. For some people of color, it can make them feel like a target.

SHELDON WRIGHT: I'm not going to put on something that causes me to stand out in a negative way.

MCNARY: Sheldon Wright sewed part of a white and brown plaid handkerchief to the outside of his mask. The hanky belonged to his late father, who died of pneumonia four years ago. So it has sentimental value.

WRIGHT: You can't see my smile. You can't see what I believe about me that makes me approachable. I need to find other ways to convey I am still approachable.

MCNARY: So Angelenos are relying on new body language, namaste prayer hands or thumbs up. Me - I give people I know a full wave. Others smile with their eyes - what supermodel Tyra Banks calls smize. When our masks finally come off, we may have a whole new vocabulary for saying, hello, neighbor. I care. For NPR News, I'm Sharon McNary - stuck at home - in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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