California Gov. Gavin Newsom issues order requiring face coverings statewide for most indoor places

A Southwest Airlines Co. employee wears a protective mask while assisting a passenger at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on an unusually empty Memorial Day weekend during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 23, 2020.

REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday issued a statewide order requiring the use of face coverings.

  • The order comes after public health officials in Orange County rescinded an order requiring the wearing of masks in the face of vocal criticism. It is now experiencing its highest rate of COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

  • Under Newsom's order, face coverings are required indoors and wherever physical distancing is impossible.

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California is imposing a statewide requirement that masks be worn in public, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday, overriding pockets of resistance at the county level. The move comes as new research shows that face coverings dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress that we have made in fighting the disease," Newsom said in a statement, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

The new guidance mandates face coverings in "high-risk situations," defined as public buildings, food establishments, and anywhere it may not be possible to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet from others. Children two years old or younger and people with certain health conditions are exempt.

A study by researchers at Texas A&M University found that the wearing of face masks helped contain the coronavirus, calling it "the most effective means to prevent inter-human transmission." The findings were published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ScienceDaily reported.,

Despite the evidence that masks are an effective means of arresting the spread of the virus, some in California have resisted what they portray as an infringement on their freedom. In Orange County, the top public health official, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned earlier this month after facing death threats over her decision to mandate the wearing of masks in public.

Her replacement quickly rescinded the order — while insisting that the move "does not diminish the importance of face coverings." Orange County is now experiencing its highest rate of COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began, according to public health data reported by the Voice of OC.

On Tuesday, union leaders who protested the relaxation, calling it a threat to the health of essential workers, were attacked by anti-mask protesters.

In addition to science, public health experts who support the wearing of masks, in Orange County and elsewhere, now have the support of the governor.

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