COVID-19: Are Face Masks Mandatory in California?

California Face Masks

Getty People wear surgical masks in San Francisco, California.

As of April 3, the CDC is now recommending that Americans wear face masks when out in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This recommendation has changed from their previous guidance, and President Trump announced the changes today in a press conference.

Although this is only a recommendation and voluntary, some cities are starting to implement mandatory mask-wearing. Many Californians are wondering, are face masks mandatory in the state?

The state government has not made face masks mandatory in California. Wearing face masks is a recommendation only at this time. The California Department of Public Health issued guidance on face coverings on April 1. They said that face coverings are not mandatory but could give “some additional protection” against coronavirus.

Face coverings are defined as any material that covers the mouth and nose. The guidance also made clear that people should not be buying or wearing N95 respirator masks or surgical masks since these are needed for healthcare workers and are already in short supply.

The state has said that scarves, t-shirts, bandanas and homemade masks are all suitable face coverings because they can block particles that are possibly infected, especially for individuals who might be asymptomatic.

Officials Reiterated That Social Distancing & Shelter-in-Place Guidelines Have Not Changed

State and local officials have stressed that wearing a face covering does not change the current regulations and social distancing rules. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of Health and Human Services for the state said “Face coverings could provide some additional protection against COVID-19, but Californians should not have a false sense of security if they choose to wear them.”

The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, also said that while the recommendation is to wear face coverings in public, the shelter-in-place guidelines still stand. “Research shows even a bandanna tucked in can have an effect of slowing down droplet spread,” he said. “These face coverings are only effective together, of course, with safe physical distancing. So this is not an excuse to get closer.”

The health officials in the state of California clarified that anyone who wears a covering should be washing it in hot water with laundry detergent after every use or once a day.

Laredo, Texas and Miami Beach, Florida Are Both Requiring the Use of Face Masks in Public

Two cities that have decided to make wearing face masks mandatory are Laredo, Texas and Miami Beach, Florida. Effective April 2, Laredo required that every resident over the age of 5 wears a face covering in public places. This includes all buildings accessible by the public, gas stations and public transportation. Residents who do not follow this rule may face fines up to $1,000.

Miami Beach, Florida Mayor Dan Gelber said in a video address on April 3 that effective Monday evening, “requiring — not suggesting — but requiring that workers and customers in certain businesses, including food stores, restaurants and pharmacies must be wearing a face covering by Monday evening.”

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