• Coronavirus face mask guidelines are a fact of life pretty much everywhere you go in public these days, especially at places like restaurants and retailers where large groups of people will occupy the same space.
  • Nevertheless, there continue to be emotional, sometimes violent clashes involving mask-opponents that often end up going viral.
  • Because of that, the CDC has prepared a list of guidelines to help retailers better handle coronavirus face mask opponents.

We’ve covered so many examples of the hysteria and depressing viral encounters that have been spawned by this new coronavirus face mask era we find ourselves in, and one of the most unfortunate things about these episodes is the fact that they’re not likely to go away anytime soon. In spite of the reality that we’re still in the midst of a once-in-a-century global pandemic — one that’s infected more than 5.7 million Americans at this point, according to Johns Hopkins University (and killed more than 178,000 Americans) — we’re still seeing full-on public freakouts involving people who scream that wearing a face mask is tantamount to bending the knee to socialism to, as you can see in the video below, people actually going through a charade of pretending to represent a completely fictional anti-face mask federal agency.

That “agency” is the FTBA — the “Freedom To Breathe Agency,” which is not a real thing, though you couldn’t necessarily tell that from this woman pretending to represent it and harassing an apparently teenage retail worker for wearing a face mask.

Because these kinds of encounters over face masks have occasionally turned violent around the country, meanwhile, the CDC has decided to weigh in with a set of recommendations for stores that don’t necessarily know the best way to handle these things. Walmart, for example, started requiring customers to wear face masks in its stores in July, but a spokesman told Business Insider in recent weeks that employees still have to help people who won’t wear a face mask, and they can’t be turned away so as not to spark any kind of disruptive encounter.

Via a webpage titled “Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Business,” the CDC’s suggestions on how to handle these events include:

  • Provide employee training on threat recognition, conflict resolution, nonviolent response, and on any other relevant topics related to workplace violence response.
  • Install security systems (e.g., panic buttons, cameras, alarms) and train employees on how to use them.
  • Identify a safe area for employees to go to if they feel they are in danger (e.g., a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).

“Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent,” the CDC’s guidelines suggest. “If needed, go to a safe area (ideally, a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm).”

Also, the guidelines continue: “Don’t attempt to force anyone who appears upset or violent to follow COVID-19 prevention policies or other policies or practices related to COVID-19 (e.g., limits on number of household or food products).”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.