Here’s Where You’re Expected to Wear a Face Covering

With businesses reopening, more than half of the states in the US require face masks or coverings when you go out in public. Here’s what you need to know.

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Some states and counties now have mandates for wearing face masks.Angela Lang/CNET

Now that many US states have reopened retail stores and restaurants, many cities, counties and states are taking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to wear a face mask or face covering out in public one step further. Some are making it mandatory to cover up, enforceable in many places by a fine or arrest if you’re not wearing your face mask where you should be. Even if there is no local ordinance to wear masks, some stores won’t let you in unless you do

in April, the CDC changed its guidance on nonmedical masks, urging the general population to wear them as a “voluntary health measure.” Homemade face masks and coverings may not be able to prevent you from acquiring the coronavirus, a respiratory pathogen, but they are thought to block larger particles from the coughs, sneezes or saliva of asymptomatic people. In other words, wearing a nonmedical covering is to protect others from you, and not the other way around.

The seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak — with over 1.6 million confirmed cases in the US and over 5 million worldwide — is prompting some local governments to make wearing masks obligatory. If everyone wears one, the logic goes, every asymptomatic carrier can help prevent transmitting the virus, which has caused over 333,000 deaths globally.

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It’s recommended that you wear face masks in public places. Sarah Tew/CNET

Where do you have to wear a face mask or covering?

So far, all of the mandates are requiring people to wear masks when going to essential businesses, hospitals, using public transportation and now retail stores, salons and some restaurants have been added to that list. These are places where there are crowds of people, making social distancing much more difficult.

Do I have to wear a face mask outside on a walk, bike ride or jog?

If you’re outside on a walk or riding your bike, you don’t have to wear a face mask, according to the states’ orders. However, if you’re within city limits, some orders say that you should bring a cloth covering with you in the event that you pass someone else at close range or decide to go into a shop. It’s possible you could also be stopped and cited.

This is because you’ll likely be around other people on the sidewalk and can expose them to the virus (or vice-versa). If you’re exercising outside, it’s best to choose an area that doesn’t have much pedestrian traffic, like your neighborhood or outside of the city.

Do I have to wear a face mask in my car?

The mandatory face mask orders don’t extend to your car. However, they still apply to situations where you’re within 6 feet of someone outside your household. 

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