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When are you exempt from wearing a mask in California?

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Posted at 1:19 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 16:19:04-05

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise around the country and the world, many states are tightening anti-virus restrictions and mask mandates. State and local officials adjusting their blueprints for fighting a virus that is threatening to overwhelm health care systems. And with Thanksgiving coming up next week, public health officials are bracing for a holiday-fueled surge.

One of the constants throughout the pandemic has been the call for increased use of face coverings and masks. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains: "COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in. Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth."

And the use of masks in California is no different. Wearing a mask is now required statewide, with the state's COVID-19 website stating: People in California must wear face coverings when they are outside of the home. But the state did revise its list of exemptions from wearing a mask.

Individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings in the following specific settings:

  • Persons in a car alone or solely with members of their own household.
  • Persons who are working in an office or in a room alone.
  • Persons who are actively eating or drinking provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence.
  • Persons who are outdoors and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing from others not in their household. Such persons must have a face covering with them at all times and must put it on if they are within 6 feet of others who are not in their household.
  • Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face-covering is necessary to perform the service.
  • Workers who are required to wear respiratory protection.
  • Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing face coverings by other CDPH guidance.

The following individuals are exempt from wearing face coverings at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. These very young children must not wear a face-covering because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face-covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. Such conditions are rare.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

The site also states that a mask "must cover your nose and mouth when outside your home. Don't wear your mask under your nose or just on your chin. A mask is only effective if it covers both ways you breathe."