California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a mandatory face mask order for state residents Thursday afternoon, requiring that face coverings be worn in most public settings.
The decision follows growing concern of a spike in coronavirus cases is due to residents not taking the proper precautions to maintain a social distance and regularly wash hands.
Under the new guidelines, residents will have to wear face masks when going shopping, taking public transit and seeking medical care.
“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. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”
The governor's administration did not outline how the order would be enforced or whether violations would be subject to citations or penalties. When Newsom issued the statewide stay-at-home in March to curb the spread of COVID-19, he made it clear that enforcement would be left to cities and counties.
Up until Thursday, the state only strongly encouraged the wearing of face masks as one method to limit the spread of COVID-19, along with staying at home if sick and maintaining a social distance of at least six feet.
The new mandate exempts children 2 years old or younger and people with medical, mental or developmental disability conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Customers who dine at restaurants are exempt as well when eating and drinking, as well as residents who are outdoors in recreational areas as long as they keep a distance from others not in their immediate household.
People in workplaces, however, are required to wear face coverings, especially when serving customers or members of the public, when working or walking through shared hallways and parking facilities and when riding on elevators. Public transit employees and riders will also be required to wear masks.
While the new order is recent, several cities and counties, including Los Angeles County, issued their own requirements ordering that residents wear masks while in public. Kern County public health officials until now have only strongly encouraged that people wear them while observing other preventative measures.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine said that the county will provide guidelines on its website, www.kernpublichealth.com should the governor issue a mandatory face covering order.
As of June 18, 3,600 people have been infected by the virus in Kern County, including 10 nonresidents and caused 58 deaths. Among those, 2,450 have since recovered; more than 40,800 people have been tested at healthcare facilities in Kern County.
Statewide, the virus has infected 163,541 and resulted in 5,282 deaths.