by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of 41 Chicago aldermen has introduced a proposal to require anyone over age 2 in Chicago to wear a face covering in public, and to require the city and essential businesses to provide their employees with masks.

The measure introduced by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) would require anyone over age 2 to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face covering in any public place, including public transportation, taxis, rideshare vehicles.

“As the City of Chicago confronts the unprecedented public health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that the City take swift action to ensure the safety of our residents while supporting Essential Business and Operations necessary to implement Governor JB Pritzker’s Stay at Home order,” the proposed ordinance states.

The city and all essential businesses would be required to pay for face coverings for all of their workers, and require them to cover their mouth and nose whenever interacting with the public. Customers also would have to cover their mouth and nose whenever shopping at an essential business, and management could turn away anyone who refuses to do so.

Coverings could include medical masks, bandanas, scarves, or other cloth coverings. Employers also would be required to make sure workers have access to clean restrooms and hand sanitizer.

Workers would have to wash reusable face coverings at least once a day, and dispose of single-use coverings in trash cans.

A total of 41 aldermen, including Smith, are sponsoring the ordinance, far more than the 26 required for City Council passage. The measure must first go to committee for a vote.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she agrees that anyone who cannot safely observe social distancing measures in public — specifically, staying six feet away from other people — should wear a face covering, and she said she believes most people already do so.

“The challenge is making sure that every member of the public has the same accessibility to some kind of face covering, and we know from the disparities in our city that that is not so. What is possible in Lincoln Park is not the same as what’s possible in Austin, or Englewood, or Roseland. So we have to have a policy that is consistent with the realities of people’s lives,”

The mayor said, while the city will continue encouraging people to wear masks in public, she said it would be difficult to mandate it “without giving people the tools to actually comply.” She noted police aren’t going to start throwing people in jail because they’re not wearing masks in public.

“So, these are nuanced issues. Sounds like a great idea, but when you think about the practicalities of how that’s actually going to be implemented, that’s where the challenge comes in, and I don’t believe in placing any further burden on people. They should be safe, they should wear masks when they go outside, particularly if they’re going into any kind of congregate setting, but I want to do that in a way that reflects the realities of people’s experiences out in the public,” she said.