Rundown of State and Territorial COVID-19 Mask Requirements

July 09, 2020|11:11 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

In describing one author’s choice of pseudonyms, Oscar Wilde observed, “A mask tells us more than a face.” Today, the masks we so often see tell us some of what we know about the coronavirus. Since the coronavirus is passed from person to person through sneezes, coughs, talking, and even singing and cheering, covering one’s nose and mouth with a mask or other face covering can reduce the amount of virus that is spread to people who are in close contact. With this understanding, the CDC recommends that people wear face coverings and masks when they are in public and unable to properly physically distance themselves from others.

Several states and territories, as well as many local governments, are going beyond recommendations and requiring individuals to wear face coverings when they are in public settings and spaces (i.e. grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, public and private transportation services, parks, etc.) Ongoing research and evidence suggests the relationship between mandatory face coverings and declines in daily COVID-19 growth rates is statistically significant.

As of July 8, 2020 nearly half of states and territories now have jurisdiction-wide orders for wearing face coverings in all or certain public settings or direct businesses to require patrons to wear face coverings (AR, CA, CT, DE, DC, GU, HI, IL, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OR, PA, PR, RI, TX, USVI, VA, WA, and WV). The orders often extend to outdoor public spaces when adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained. Children are typically exempt from the requirements with the age of exemption ranging from two to twelve. Most orders also exempt anyone who has a medical condition that can be aggravated by wearing a face covering or a mental health condition or disability that prevents a face covering from being worn. Other common exceptions include: exercising; eating or drinking at a restaurant; instances when seeing the mouth is essential for communication, (e.g., when communicating with a person who is hearing impaired); and when receiving a personal service that requires removal of the face covering. A few of the orders spell out the enforcement mechanisms and penalties for the refusal to wear a face coverings (MA, NC, PR, RI, VA, and TX) and some specify that individuals who decline to wear a mask because of a medical condition are not required to show documentation of the condition (CT, DE, MA, NC, and VA).

State and territorial health agencies play a key role when requiring face covering in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. As community spread of the coronavirus grows, more jurisdictions are likely to issue face covering mandates and ASTHO will continue to track the orders. Below is a list of states and territories that require wearing face coverings in public settings and spaces throughout their jurisdictions. Please note, in states without jurisdiction-wide requirements some municipalities may require face coverings (e.g., Minneapolis, Minnesota and Knox County, Tennessee).

Arkansas
A series of health directives requires face coverings for everyone 10 years of age and older at large indoor and outdoor venues when adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained, at restaurants and bars when not eating or drinking, in personal service businesses (e.g., barber shops, etc.), and for indoor sports participants who are 10 or older.

California
Everyone must wear face coverings when inside or waiting to enter an indoor public space, when obtaining healthcare services, when waiting for, using, or operating transportation services, and when in an outdoor public space where adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained. Exemptions include: children under the age of two; someone with a medical or mental condition or disability that prevents a face covering from being worn; and when seeing the mouth is essential for communication.

Connecticut
Face coverings are required for anyone in a public space who cannot maintain adequate physical distancing or is using a transportation service. The order exempts anyone with medical conditions, children under the age of two, and older children when the face covering cannot be safely placed on the child’s face. Individuals who decline to wear a mask because of a medical condition are not required to show documentation of the condition.

Delaware
Everyone—except for children two years old or younger or whose health would be impeded—must wear face coverings in public. This includes: while waiting for and using transportation services; patronizing a business; obtaining healthcare services; when physical distancing at an outdoor public space isn’t feasible; when ill in public and coughing or sneezing; and on beach boardwalks. Individuals who decline to wear a mask because of a medical condition are not required to show documentation of the condition.

District of Columbia
Certain businesses, including non-essential retail, restaurants, and grocery stores are directed to require patrons to wear face coverings.

Guam
Face masks are required for allowed activities except for exercising or eating.

Hawaii
Customers inside businesses, as well as those waiting to enter, must wear face coverings.

Illinois
Everyone over the age of two and who can medically tolerate a face covering is directed to wear one when at indoor or outdoor public places and unable to maintain an adequate physical distance from others.

Kansas
Face coverings are required when a person is inside or waiting to enter a public space, when obtaining healthcare services, when waiting for and using transportation services, and when in outdoor public spaces and unable to maintain adequate physical distancing. Exemptions include children five and under, anyone with hearing impairments or anyone communicating with such persons, and anyone unable to wear a face covering because of a medical or mental health condition or disability.

Maine
Cloth face coverings are required in public settings (e.g., grocery stores, retail stores, outdoor spaces, transportation services, etc.) where physical distancing cannot be maintained and at large gatherings. Exceptions included children under the age of two, children in a childcare setting, and anyone who has trouble breathing, a related medical condition, or who is unable to remove the covering without assistance.

Maryland
Face coverings must be worn by anyone using transportation services, as well as customers at retail and food service establishments. Children nine and under are exempt from the requirement.

Massachusetts
An executive order and public health agency guidance require face coverings when adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained in public spaces (e.g., inside or waiting to enter grocery and retail stores, when using transportation services, etc.). Exemptions include children under the age of five and those who cannot safely wear a face covering. Violations can result in up to a $300 fine. Individuals who decline to wear a mask because of a medical condition are not required to show documentation of the condition.

Michigan
Anyone who leaves their home or place of residence is required to wear a face covering when in any enclosed public space unless a medical condition prevents doing so safely.

Nevada
Face coverings must be worn in public spaces. Exemptions include: children ages nine or younger; individuals experiencing homelessness; those who cannot wear face coverings because of a medical condition or disability; anyone receiving personal services that require the removal of the face covering; when able to maintain adequate physical distancing outdoors.

New Jersey
Retail, food, and entertainment businesses must require customers to wear face coverings. Face coverings are also required in outdoor public spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained unless doing so would inhibit a person’s health. The order exempts children under the age of two.

New Mexico
Everyone, unless instructed otherwise by a healthcare provider, is directed to wear a mask or cloth face covering in public settings except when eating, drinking, or exercising.

New York
Everyone over the age of two and who can medically tolerate it, is required to wear a mask or cloth face covering in public settings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

North Carolina
Retail businesses, restaurants, and personal care providers must require customers to wear face coverings when adequate physical distancing cannot be maintained. Riders of public and private transportation services are also required to wear face coverings when they are unable to physically distance from others. Exceptions include: children under 11 years of age; anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to put on and remove a face covering without assistance; persons who are strenuously exercising; and anyone communicating with a person that requires the mouth to be visible. Businesses may be cited for failing to enforce the requirements, though law enforcement may not criminally enforce the requirements against individuals. Anyone who cannot wear a mask because of a medical condition is not required to show documentation of the condition.

Oregon
A mask, face shield, or face covering must be worn by anyone at a business or indoor public setting. Exceptions include children under 12 years of age, individuals exercising strenuously, and singers and musicians who maintain physical distancing. Anyone with a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe—or who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a covering—can request an accommodation in order to access the services or facilities available to the public.

Pennsylvania
Individuals are required to wear face coverings if they are outdoors and unable to maintain adequate physical distancing, in any indoor public setting, waiting for or using any transportation services, or obtaining healthcare services. Exception include: children under the age of two; anyone with a medical condition that makes it difficult to breathe; anyone with a mental health condition or disability that prevents the wearing of a face covering; and when seeing the mouth is essential for communicating.

Puerto Rico
Everyone must wear a mask, scarf, or cloth face covering when visiting any establishment that is authorized to be open to the public. Failure to comply may result in a misdemeanor, a penalty of imprisonment not to exceed 6 months, or a fine of no more than $5,000, or both. For more information, see EO-2020-046.

Rhode Island
Anyone in public place, either outdoor or indoor, where physical distancing cannot be maintained is directed to wear a face covering unless doing so would impede their health. The order exempts children under the age of two. The state health agency may enforce the order and civil penalties may be assessed for failure to comply with the order.

Texas
Everyone must wear a face covering when inside a public space or when in an outdoor public space and unable to maintain adequate physical distancing. Exceptions include: children under the age of 10; persons with a medical condition or disability that prevent wearing a face covering; anyone receiving personal care services that require removing the face covering; and anyone living in a county that meets criteria to opt out of the requirements and that has done so. Failure to comply with the order can result in civil fines, though jail time is prohibited.

U.S. Virgin Islands
Anyone patronizing any business is required to wear a mask. Children two and younger, along with individuals with acute respiratory issues are exempt.

Virginia
Everyone 10 and older is required to wear a face covering in personal care business, retail stores, restaurants, entertainment venues, outdoor businesses when physical distancing cannot be maintained, government buildings, and when using transportation services. Children under the age of 10 and anyone with medical conditions that do not allow the safe wearing of face coverings are exempt. The state health agency has the authority to enforce the order. Individuals who decline to wear a mask because of a medical condition are not required to show documentation of the condition.

Washington
Face coverings must be worn in any indoor or outdoor public setting. Exemptions include children under the age of five and anyone with a medical or mental health condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering. Face coverings may be removed in public settings when eating or drinking, exercising outdoors and able to maintain physical distancing, to communicate with a person who is hearing impaired, and other permitted instances.

West Virginia
Everyone nine and older must wear a face covering when they are in a confined, indoor public space. Those who have trouble breathing or who cannot remove a face covering without assistance are exempt.


Andy Baker-White is the senior director of state health policy at ASTHO.