By KATHLEEN RONAYNE Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California on Thursday started requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible.
“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement about the new order. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”
States including Michigan, New York, Maine, Delaware and Maryland already have statewide mask orders in place.
The order came as California broadly reopens its economy. In most counties, people can now shop, dine in at restaurants, get their hair done and go to church, among other things.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are increasing, something the state says was expected as more people get tested. More than 3,400 infected people were hospitalized as of Wednesday, the most since April.
The order requires people to wear masks when inside or in line for any indoor public spaces, in healthcare settings like hospitals and pharmacies, while waiting for or riding public transportation and in outdoor spaces where its not possible to stay six feet (1.8 meters) apart from others.
Until now, the Democratic governor had allowed local governments decide whether to mandate masks, an issue that’s become politically fraught as some Americans resist orders to wear them. Newsom said he issued the order because too many people are going out in public without face coverings as businesses, restaurants and other sectors of the economy reopen.
The public health officer in Southern California’s Orange County resigned last week after she faced threats over her order that people wear masks, and the county sheriff said he wouldn’t enforce it. Los Angeles County requires people to wear masks when outside their homes, as do San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.
The state’s news release announcing the mask order didn’t say how it would be enforced or what the penalty would be for people who don’t comply.
The order was praised by Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the Orange County city of Anaheim, who said in an email that the statewide order eliminates inconsistencies in local orders.
Katrina Foley, mayor of the Orange County city of Costa Mesa, said the state’s decision will take pressure off some businesses by making it clear that masks are required.
Her city has required facial coverings even as the surrounding county has gone back and forth between ordering, and recommending, that masks be worn.
“Nobody wants to have to arrest people for not wearing a facial covering. We just want people to care about others, so people don’t die,” she said.
The order also applies to workplaces where people interact with the public, prepare or package food and share common spaces like hallways and elevators. Office workers must wear masks if they can’t physically distance.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council said the order will help protect grocery workers and others exposed to the public.
“A uniform mask requirement across California is an important step toward slowing the virus’ spread in our communities and keeping both frontline workers and customers healthy,” Andrea Zinder, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The order includes several exceptions, including for outdoor recreation and exercise such as walking, hiking, running or bicycling. But if people are doing such activities and cannot stay six feet (1.8 meters) apart from others, the state says they should wear masks.
Other exceptions include: Children under 2, people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks, people who are hearing impaired or communicate with people who are hearing impaired and people obtaining receiving treatments on their noses and mouths. There’s also an exception if wearing a face covering would violate workplace safety guidelines.
People eating out at restaurants wouldn’t have to wear masks while they are eating and drinking as long as they are six feet away from others.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.