Updated at 8:39 p.m. ET
Californians are required to wear face coverings in high-risk settings as the state continues to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the statewide order on Thursday. It follows new guidance from the California Department of Public Health that asymptomatic or presymptomatic people can still spread the disease.
“Our numbers are going up, not going down. Hospitalization numbers are just starting to creep back up, and I’m very concerned by what we’re seeing,” Newsom told Los Angeles’ ABC7.
“We think the most impactful thing we can do, short of going back to a stay-at-home order, is wearing face coverings when we can’t practice physical distancing,” the governor added.
In the latest guidance, the Department of Public Health explained, “The use of face coverings by everyone can limit the release of infected droplets when talking, coughing, and/or sneezing, as well as reinforce physical distancing.”
People will be required to wear masks or other coverings in public spaces, including while taking public transportation, seeking medical care, shopping and in most work scenarios.
There are a few exceptions. Children under two are exempted from the rules, as are people eating or drinking in restaurants provided they can maintain a minimum six foot distance from other customers and staff who are not members of the same household.
Additionally, anyone with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering can disregard the order.
Newsom said the statewide measure was a necessary step because “we have many municipalities that require mandatory mask wearing, and people are simply not applying it.”
He did not address how the order will be enforced.
But it is likely to be met with resistance, pitting the governor against local government leaders who have dropped mandatory mask-wearing measures. In many such counties and cities, residents and business owners eager to return to pre-pandemic life have challenged the need for the widespread use of face coverings, in some cases going so far as to threaten health officials who support the extra precautions.
Reported cases of the novel coronavirus and fatalities continue to rise throughout the state. More than 161,000 have been identified with the virus, according the Department of Public Health, and the total number of deaths connected to COVID-19 is 5,290.