When are masks required?

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

When are masks required?A week after Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that Californians wear masks or cloth face coverings outside their homes, many residents are still expressing confusion about who is exempt, and what the consequences are for noncompliance.

Statewide, law enforcement agencies have embraced positions that range from charging fines to those appearing in public without masks to allowing individuals the freedom to choose whether they will comply.

“We are basically treating this as an opportunity to educate our community,” said Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin. “I think that for the most part, our citizens have been responsible about protecting themselves and others.

“If our officers see someone who is clearly not adhering to the governor’s order, we will stop them and make sure they understand the requirements.”

California was among the first states to issue lockdown orders in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 outbreaks. However, once commercial sectors began reopening and members of the public began mixing, numbers in many communities increased.

Some, however, have questioned whether the spike in positive cases — particularly in isolated communities like ours — might simply be the result of more prevalent testing. The number of positive results in Ridgecrest has hovered near 1 in 100 tests for the last two months. At press time, RRH had detected 13 positive results out of 1,181 tests.

“Because of our collective actions, California has limited the spread of COVID-19 and associated hospitalizations and deaths in our state,” said Newsom. “Still, the risk for COVID-19 remains and the increasing number of Californians who are leaving their homes for work and other needs increases the risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection.”

RRH officials agreed that wearing masks is one of the best ways to reduce contagion, since even asymptomatic individuals can pass the illness along. However, many residents – including patients in clinics — remain resistant to wearing them.

Individuals who are exempt from wearing face coverings include children 2 and younger, anyone with severe respiratory issues whose breathing might be impeded and those who cannot remove masks without help.

Masks must be worn in public indoor spaces, while getting health care, on public transportation and when operating in common spaces at work. If you are outdoors, and do not have the ability to maintain at least 6 feet of space from others, masks are also required.

The state requirements also make allowances for masks to be removed when eating or drinking, if a hearing-impaired person needs to read your lips and if at a personal workspace and able to maintain appropriate social distancing.

Comprehensive guidance is available at covid19.ca.gov/masks-and-ppe/.

Story First Published: 2020-06-26