California’s mask requirement: Here’s where you need to wear a face covering and who is exempt from new rules

California
Women wearing face masks exit a shopping mall where a sign is posted at an entrance reminding people of the mask requirement at Westfield Santa Anita mall in Arcadia on June 12, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Women wearing face masks exit a shopping mall where a sign is posted at an entrance reminding people of the mask requirement at Westfield Santa Anita mall in Arcadia on June 12, 2020. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

People in California are now required to wear face masks in many public places under a new statewide mandate as the Golden State looks to mitigate the spread of coronavirus while the economy reopens.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the sweeping order Thursday after the state recorded more than 4,000 cases of COVID-19 in a single-day, the highest total since the pandemic began.

California is in the midst of slowly restarting its economy, allowing many businesses shuttered during the public health emergency to reopen with health and safety modifications.

The state had previously only recommended — not required — wearing face coverings outside the home. But health officials say they can be effective in helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus, particularly since infected individuals who show no symptoms — and may not even realize they’re sick — are still capable of spreading the illness.

“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Newsom said in a statement on Thursday. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”

To help avoid confusion over where and when face coverings must be worn, and who is exempt, California has laid out a comprehensive set guidelines.

Here’s where masks are required:


• Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space.

• Obtaining services from the health care sector in settings such as hospitals, pharmacies, medical clinics, laboratories, physician or dental offices, veterinary clinics, and blood banks.

• Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit, or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle.

• Engaged in work — including at a workplace or working off-site — when interacting with members of the public in person.

• Working in a space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone else is present at the time.

• Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others.

• Working in or walking through common areas populated by other people, like hallways stairways, elevators, and parking facilities.

• In any room or enclosed area where other people are present — except for members of the individual’s own household or residence — and unable to maintain physical distancing.

• Driving or operating any public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, private car service or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. Face coverings are still “strongly recommended” even when no passengers are present.

• While outdoors in public spaces when it’s not feasible to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from others outside your household.

Here are the exemptions:


• Children 2 years old or younger because of potential suffocation risk.

• People with medical or mental health conditions, or disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face covering. This includes those with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. (For those with a medical condition who still must interact with the public, health officials advise wearing a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge.)

• People who are hard of hearing, or communicating with someone who is hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

• Those for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators, or workplace safety guidelines.

• People who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the mask is necessary to perform the service.

• People who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking, and provided that they can maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others who are not members of the same household or residence.

• Anyone engaged in outdoor work or recreation — such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running — when alone or with other members of their household, or when they can maintain social distancing.

• People who are incarcerated. Prisons and jails will have specific guidance on face masks for both inmates and staff.

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