Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered people throughout the state to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible as the coronavirus continues to spread.
“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Newsom said in a statement about the new order. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”
Newsom has been criticized for overreacting to the coronavirus with a stay-at-home order that led to massive unemployment. In the past few weeks he’s gotten criticism from people who saying he’s reopening the state too quickly. Today’s move seems to be an attempt to mollify supporters of an extended lock down.
The order came as California broadly reopens its economy. In most counties, people can now shop, dine in at restaurants, get their hair done and go to church, among other things. As restrictions relax, coronavirus cases are increasing, something the state says was expected as more people get tested. More than 3,400 infected people were hospitalized as of Wednesday, the most since April.
The order requires people to wear masks when inside or in line for any indoor public spaces, in healthcare settings like hospitals and pharmacies, while waiting for or riding public transportation and in outdoor spaces where it’s not possible to stay six feet apart from others.
Until now, the Democratic governor had allowed local governments decide whether to mandate masks, an issue that has become politically fraught as some Americans resist orders to wear them. Newsom said he issued the order because too many people are going out in public without face coverings as businesses, restaurants and other sectors of the economy reopen.
States including Michigan, New York, Maine, Delaware and Maryland already have statewide mask orders in place.
The public health officer in Southern California’s Orange County resigned last week after she faced threats over her order that people wear masks, and the county sheriff said he wouldn’t enforce it. Los Angeles County requires people to wear masks when outside their homes, as do San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.
Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher said he preferred letting locals decide and criticized Newsom for routinely changing his mind on who sets virus-related rules.
“The governor can’t seem to make up his mind if counties can govern themselves during this pandemic. Perhaps if his guidance was more clear, Californians would be better prepared to meet this moment,” he said in a statement. — By the Associated Press