Californians must wear masks in all indoor public spaces under a mandate announced Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The new rules require face coverings when people are riding in taxis and rideshare cars, taking public transit, standing in line to enter a building or walking through common areas like hallways, stairways, elevators and parking garages.
It also requires masks for people working in a building visited by the public even if no other people are present and at all locations where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution.
Masks are also required outdoors in spaces where people can’t maintain six feet of distance from one another.
The new rules are intended to prevent people who are infected with COVID-19 but not showing symptoms from spreading the virus, according to an announcement by the California Department of Public Health.
Newsom said he decided to issue the guidance because “we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease.”
“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Newsom said in a written statement. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”
Children under age 2 don’t have to wear masks under the new rules. People with medical conditions or developmental disabilities that prevent them from wearing masks are also exempt. The rules also make exceptions for people who are deaf or have hearing loss who may rely on reading lips and facial expressions for communication, and allow others to remove their masks when communicating with them.
People can remove their masks to eat or drink at a restaurant, and for procedures like dental cleanings.
Masks won’t be required for people who are exercising outdoors, including walking, running, hiking and biking, as long as they maintain at least six feet of distance from others.
Inmates and staff at prisons and jails will have their own specific guidance on mask wearing, according to the Department of Public Health.
People are still encouraged to wash their hands frequently and maintain physical distance from one another even while wearing masks, California Public Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell said.
Newsom has the authority to enforce the new rules under a previous executive order, which requires residents to follow official guidance from state public health officials.
The new rules will make uniform a patchwork of mask regulations that vary from county to county. Most Bay Area counties had already implemented mask requirements similar to the one Newsom announced Thursday. Los Angeles and San Diego, the state’s two largest counties, also had mask orders. Other counties including Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties created mask requirements, then walked them back amid backlash from residents who opposed the requirements.
On Wednesday, Sacramento County officials said they were considering issuing a mask requirement as coronavirus numbers in the region rise. That day, officials said the county had seen four deaths and 67 new cases of COVID-19 over a 24-hour period.
As of Tuesday, state officials reported that more than 157,000 Californians have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 5,200 have died.