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When And Where You're Required To Wear A Face Mask, Under Mills' Executive Order

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Customers chat outside the Town Landing Market as the town is empty due to the coronavirus pandemic in Yarmouth, Maine, Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Gov. Janet Mills announced on Tuesday that “cloth face coverings” must be worn, under certain circumstances, as part of her administration’s plan to reopen Maine. Her executive order released Wednesday offers some detail — here’s a look at where you’ll be required to wear a face covering, and when you won’t.

What is a 'cloth face covering,' exactly?

The nonspecific language of this instruction is intentional. According to the order, people don’t need to be wearing any particular kind of mask, but there are certain qualities a face covering must have. From the order: “‘Cloth Face Covering’ is a protection that covers the nose and mouth; fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face; is secured with ties or ear loops; has multiple layers of fabric; allows for breathing without restriction; and is able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to its shape”

N-95 respirators or surgical masks shouldn’t be worn, because according to U.S. CDC guidance, those masks are “critical supplies” that should be reserved for health care workers, medical first responders and other workers.

Who needs to wear a mask?

According to the order, “individuals must wear cloth face covering in public settings where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” That means any person who is over the age of two, with some exceptions.

Who doesn’t need to wear a mask?

Other exceptions to this are children who are in a child care setting, people who have trouble breathing or related medical conditions or those who can’t remove a mask without help. If you have a medical condition that means you shouldn’t wear a cloth face covering, you do not need to provide medical documentation unless your employer requires it.

The order also clarifies that people need to cover their faces regardless of their role in a given situation — for example, if you’re in the supermarket, you have to wear a mask whether you’re there as a shopper or a cashier.

When and where do I need to wear a mask?

According to the order, people must wear masks in public settings where social distancing is hard to maintain. This would include:

  1. Indoor spaces open to the public, like supermarkets, retail stores, pharmacies and doctors offices.

  2. Outdoor spaces like playgrounds, busy parking lots, lines for takeout (or ice cream!) and other places where the public “typically gathers in a smaller area.”

  3. Public transportation — not just the bus or a train, but also a taxi, Uber or Lyft, or any ride-sharing service. Also while you’re waiting for the bus or any other transit in a semi-enclosed area, like a bus shelter.

What about at work?

If you work in one of the public spaces mentioned above, yes, you should be wearing a mask. If you’re working in a setting where you don’t typically interact with the public, your employer will decide if you have to wear a mask. But they cannot prevent you from wearing one if you want to.

What about at other times?

You may have noticed more and more people out walking their dogs, biking or jogging with masks on. This is not required, unless you’re doing those things in the kind of outdoor space described above. From a public health perspective, here’s no reason other than possible physical discomfort to not wear a mask when you leave your house. But it’s not required in this order.

Originally published April 30, 2020 at 3:53 p.m. ET.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.