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New coronavirus mandate: Californians required to wear masks in most public settings

People in a crowd wearing face masks. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Californians will now be required to wear face masks in most public settings — including while using public transportation, waiting in lines and in some workplaces — to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

In new guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the governor said that the order came in response to both a growing body of research showing face masks’ effectiveness and the need for more precautions as the state reopens the economy.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Newsom said in a statement. “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations.”

The guidance requires the use of a face mask in most situations outside the home, including inside businesses and while waiting in a line to enter, going to a healthcare facility and riding public transportation. While at work, Californians must cover up if interacting with the public or working in a setting other people may enter, while walking in common areas like hallways or when physical distancing isn’t possible, among other scenarios.

Children younger than 2, however, are exempt, along with people with disabilities or for whom seeing the face is essential to communicate. Restaurant patrons, meanwhile, will not be required to wear masks so long as they’re six feet apart from other tables; nor will those exercising or those who are incarcerated.

The new mandate comes as California experiences record numbers of new coronavirus as the state increasingly reopens for business. On Wednesday, the state topped 4,000 cases in a single day — with 4,165 — for the first time since the pandemic began.

Bay Area counties — except Santa Clara — already had similar mask orders in place; Santa Clara County recommended the use of masks but stopped short of officially mandating them.

The Sacramento Bee first reported Wednesday that Newsom was considering the order and had briefed county health directors this week to weigh the possible pros and cons.


© 2020 the San Jose Mercury News