Face Masks Are Now Mandatory In California As Coronavirus Cases Rise

by Madison Vanderberg
David Livingston/Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom issues statewide mask requirement

As the U.S. begins to ease up on stay-at-home orders and people return to work, dining out, and other pre-pandemic activities, coronavirus cases are — not surprisingly — increasing in many of those reopened states. However, unlike Arizona, which is facing an extreme uptick in COVID-19 cases and yet, the governor refuses to enact a statewide mask rule, California Governor Gavin Newsom just announced that masks are mandatory across the state, and he hopes the new mandate will help stop the continued spread of the deadly virus.

The Los Angeles Times reports that after a stabilization, coronavirus hospitalizations are on the rise again across the state, so on Thursday, June 18, 2020, Governor Newsom announced that “Californians are now REQUIRED to wear face coverings in public spaces.”

“Our numbers are going up, not going down. Hospitalization numbers are just starting to creep back up, and I’m very concerned by what we’re seeing,” Newsom told ABC7 on Thursday. “We think the most impactful thing we can do, short of going back to a stay-at-home order, is wearing face coverings when we can’t practice physical distancing.”

According to Newsom’s order, “Californians must wear face coverings in common and public indoor spaces and outdoors when distancing is not possible.” Specifically, one must wear a mask in “high risk” situations which is described as any indoor public space (including waiting in line outside to enter said indoor space), doctors offices and hospitals, public transportation, workplaces that interface with members of the public, and any outdoor space where social distancing isn’t possible.

Of course, certain individuals like those with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, are exempt, as are children under the age of two. Another (obvious) caveat is that you don’t have to wear a mask while eating or drinking inside a restaurant, though it appears you have to keep your mask on anytime you aren’t at your table or anytime you can’t keep a minimum six-foot distance from other restaurant customers and staff.

Naturally, the order was already met with resistance especially from online trolls who rely on the rhetoric that “masks don’t work,” which is completely misunderstanding the purpose of the mask. The primary function of the mask is not necessarily to protect yourself from acquiring the virus, but to protect the people around you from potentially being infected with your own — possibly undiagnosed and asymptomatic — COVID-19 infection.

“[The masks] primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well,” the California Department Of Public Health explained. “Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.” Additionally, the CDC corroborates this claim and recommends that all Americans wear masks to help “slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”

According to the National Governors Association, California now joins New York, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and New Mexico in implementing a mandatory statewide mask requirement. However, Newsom has not yet addressed how he plans to enforce this new order.