When it comes to shopping at some of the city's Market Basket locations, it's "no shoes, no shirt — no mask — no service.''
The chairman of the city's Board of Health is speaking out after some residents complained on social media that they were turned away from local supermarkets for not wearing masks or other forms of face coverings.
Board Chairman Peter Carbone said the order passed by the board last week was intended to encourage patrons of essential businesses such as Market Basket and other supermarkets to wear face coverings while shopping. The rule, agreed to by the three-member board and Mayor James Fiorentini, was not mandatory, but mistyping in the final document said patrons "must" wear masks instead of "should" wear masks, Carbone said.
"We weren't trying to force people (customers) to wear masks," Carbone said.
He said, however, that the city's three Market Basket supermarkets, are free, as private businesses, to set and enforce their own rules about patrons wearing masks.
The only requirement set by the Board of Health is that store employees must wear masks, Carbone said.
According to the board's ruling, employees of essential businesses such as supermarkets will be allowed to bring their own face coverings to work, and the employer must allow use of those coverings. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which should be left for medical professionals and first responders.
Workers at essential businesses, including pharmacies and drive-thru food and coffee shops, are also expected to wear face coverings when interacting with the public, preparing food or working within six feet of each other, according to the Board of Health order.
Employees who are behind Plexiglass or similar barriers are not required to wear a face covering, but are encouraged to do so.
Violations of these orders come with fines of up to $100 for a first offense, $300 for a second and up to $500 for a third offense, city officials said.
The mayor's spokesman Shawn Regan said last week that city inspectors immediately began contacting all essential businesses in the city — including supermarkets, sandwich and pizza shops, and other businesses on the state's list of essential services — to inform them of the new regulations and make sure they understood the rules.
Carbone said managers he spoke with at the Market Basket locations at Central Plaza and RiversEdge locations intended to enforce a "no mask, no service" policy "of their own volition."
The Central Plaza Market Basket is displaying a sign indicating its policy "according to Gov. Baker's executive orders." The exterior of the RiversEdge Plaza Market Basket did not have a sign indicating the policy as of late Monday afternoon.
Reached for comment late Monday afternoon, Market Basket spokeswoman Justine Griffin said the Haverhill stores are "following the guidance of the Board of Health with regard to masks and all other COVID-19 directives."
Carbone said wearing a mask should simply be part of the "new normal.''
"A face covering is not for you, it's for the people you meet," he said. "If you had any decency for your fellow people, you'd wear one."