California orders residents to wear masks in ‘most settings outside the home’

California on Thursday ordered residents to wear masks in “most settings outside the home,” saying the new rule was necessary because too many Californians were neglecting to cover their faces during the coronavirus pandemic.

The mandate is one of the broadest of any U.S. state, requiring Californians to wear masks outdoors and “in any indoor space,” with exceptions made for diners while they are eating or drinking and people engaging in outdoor recreation, as long as they maintain 6 feet of physical distance.

“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.” 

It was not immediately clear how the statewide rule, which even recommends face coverings for people driving alone in their cars, would be enforced.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Newsom said.

California, the most populous U.S. state with 40 million residents, was the first state to impose statewide stay-at-home restrictions and mandatory workplace closures, on March 19.

The state has recorded more than 163,000 cases of COVID-19 and 5,281 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis