A transit worker hands out free hand sanitiser and face masks at Grand Central Station in New York City, where masks are required for anyone in public over the age of two who is not able to practice social distancing [File: Angela Weiss /AFP]
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in 42 states across the United States, federal health officials recommend that all Americans over the age of two wear cloth face coverings in public to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has changed since the start of the pandemic, distinguishes between cloth and medical-grade masks. The latter are in limited supply and should be reserved for front-line healthcare workers, the agency says.
Some of the 50 states have taken the federal recommendation a step further and mandated mask-wearing, while others have left it to counties and cities to implement requirements.
Here are the rules around cloth face coverings in selected states:
As of June 18, California requires masks to be worn in indoor public spaces, including public transit, and outdoors when social distancing is not feasible. The state’s rule exempts people with certain medical conditions and children under 2.
While cases have repeatedly leaped by more than 10,000 per day in the last week, the state does not mandate mask-wearing but strongly advises it. Several counties have issued mandates, including Miami-Dade, which requires face coverings in all public settings, outdoor and indoor.
Governor Brian Kemp has strongly encouraged, but not mandated, mask-wearing in his state, where cases have increased by more than 18,000 in the last week. Some cities have implemented their own requirements.
Newly reopened public-facing businesses, including restaurants and salons, must supply staff with personal protective equipment and “ensure employees wear face masks”, according to the state’s reopening plans.
Masks are encouraged, but not required for the general public. Some business employees who interact with the public, including those at restaurants and bars, are required to wear masks on the job.
Masks are required for patrons and providers in the personal services industry, including nail salons and tattoo parlors, as well as for employees at bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and clubs.
Governor Phil Murphy said on Wednesday that he would sign an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings outdoors whenever social distancing is not possible, in addition to the state requirement that they be worn in indoor public spaces.
Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a face-covering order effective April 17 that applies to anyone over the age of two who is in “a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance.”
On Tuesday, Governor Mike DeWine issued a mandate that applies to seven counties where COVID-19 is on the rise, requiring that residents there wear masks in indoor public spaces and outdoors when social distancing is not possible.
Cities have imposed their own mask mandates with Governor Henry McMaster’s approval, as he has said the state will not impose a universal requirement.
Governor Greg Abbott imposed a mask-wearing requirement on July 2 that applied to every county with 20 or more COVID-19 cases. Under his order, Abbott said violators would first get a verbal warning and then could face up to $250 in fines.