The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged employees in retail and service businesses to avoid confronting customers who refuse to comply with Covid-19 restrictions, such as wearing masks or social distancing.

In its new guidelines, rolled out this week, the CDC has also advised business owners to beef up security, including by installing “panic buttons, cameras, alarms” in light of incidents that have seen customers take out their anger with the coronavirus-related restrictions on fellow customers or employees.

“Workers may be threatened and assaulted as businesses try to put into place COVID-19 prevention policies and practices (e.g., mandatory use of masks, social distancing, and limits on the number of customers allowed in a business),” the CDC states in its newly-released rulebook.

The guidance discourages employees from insisting that customers abide by the restrictions when the former “appear upset or violent.”

“Don’t argue with a customer if they make threats or become violent,” the CDC says, suggesting that if customers appear to be at their boiling point, employees should instead flee and hole up in a safe space, “ideally, a room that locks from the inside, has a second exit route, and has a phone or silent alarm.”

At the same time, the CDC argues that if businesses have two workers watching over customers “to encourage Covid-19 prevention policies” are followed, it would reduce the chance of incidents.
The guidance was released as debate over the efficacy of mandatory mask rules is heating up. A series of viral videos have shown mask-related brawls between passengers on the same flight, customers in stores and even outside in the open air.

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