California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday issued an order requiring all residents of the state to cover their face during most public outings. Californians must now wear masks when inside or in line to enter any indoor public space, while in line for or riding public transportation, in any health care setting, or outdoors if it's impossible to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet away from anyone not in their same household, the AP reports. Anyone in violation of the mandate could be charged with a misdemeanor and be fined, but the Los Angeles Times notes that state officials have so far "shied away from enforcing other statewide coronavirus mandates with similar actions, choosing instead to encourage compliance and educate residents about the benefits of safeguards." At least 10 other states have mandated masks.
Until now, local governments in the state have been allowed to decide whether to mandate masks, and some counties have—but other counties have issued such orders, then rescinded them after public outcry. The issue has become politically fraught, and "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." Much of the economy has reopened in the state, with most counties now allowing restaurants, shops, churches, hair salons, and the like to open back up. As restrictions have been relaxed, however, coronavirus cases have gone up. The mask requirement will be waived in certain conditions, including for anyone with a medical condition preventing them from wearing one. (Read more coronavirus stories.)