SACRAMENTO – The state of California issued an order requiring all residents to wear face coverings in "high-risk settings,'' effectively mandating them whenever people are interacting with others to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There is a growing body of scientific research that shows that people with no or few symptoms of COVID-19 can still spread the disease and that the use of face coverings, combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, can help reduce the virus' spread.

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

What You Need To Know

  • Governor Newsom issues order mandating Californians wear masks in public

  • Research shows that use of face coverings, combined with physical distancing, hand washing, can help slow virus' spread

  • Governor said the order was a response to too many people being in public without masks

  • Children under two, those with certain medical issues among those exempt from order

Newsom said the order was a response to too many people being in public without masks.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease. 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," Newsom said. "That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.” 

“As Californians venture into our communities more, wearing face coverings is another important way we can help protect one another,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, state public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health. “Combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, wearing cloth face coverings when we are with others outside of our household will reduce the spread of COVID-19, which is still a very real threat across our state."

The order mandates the use of cloth face coverings by the general public statewide when outside the home, with limited exceptions.

According to the public order, Californians must wear face coverings when they are in the situations listed below:

  • Inside of, or in line to enter any indoor public space
  • Obtaining services from the healthcare sector
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation
  • Engaged in work at the work place or off-site
  • Driving or operating any public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or private car service
  • While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining physical distance

The following individuals are exempted from wearing a face covering:

  • Children aged 2 and under
  • Persons with a medical, mental health, or developmental disability that prevents wearing a face covering
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired
  • Persons 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
  • Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is neccesary
  • Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking
  • Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others
  • Persons who are incarcerated. Prisons and jails, as part of their mitigation plans, will have specific guidance on the wearing of face coverings of masks for both inmates and staff