All Massachusetts residents who are unable to social distance when out in public spaces such as grocery stores will now be required to wear a face mask, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
“Covering our faces when we cannot practice social distancing is an easy, critically important and essential step that every one should take,” Baker said on Friday at his afternoon press conference.
The order will go into effect on Wednesday, May 6, Baker said. The governor had previously held off on making the order and had left it up to individual cities and towns to make the call.
“Everyone needs to wear a face covering for your own protection,” Baker said, adding that residents should use homemade masks and leave surgical and medical-grade masks for health care workers.
The order does not apply to young children under the age of 2 or those who are unable to wear a mask due to medical conditions, Baker said.
Enforcement of the order will fall on the shoulders of the Department of Public Health and local boards of health and those who violate it could have to pay a fine of up to $300 per violation, the order states.
The order also applies to all workers in businesses that are open to the public and the executive order states that a business may decline entry to a customer who refuses to wear a mask.
“We all believe that as part of the strategy around anything associated with reopening, people are going to need a mask or a face covering if they are going to be close to people. You can’t always stay 6 feet away,” Baker said.
Baker noted that a “significant portion” of the population will test positive for coronavirus but never show symptoms, meaning, “it is critically important that we all accept the fact that if everyone is wearing a mask, it will dramatically reduce the opportunity for spread.”
The order will stay in place until Baker rescinds it or until the state of emergency is over.
Baker gave other updates on the state’s coronavirus situation during Friday’s press conference, saying there has been a statewide drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a consistent six percent of all cases have led to hospitalization.
“Each part of Massachusetts is at a slightly different stage in the pandemic, so when we see a statewide drop in patients who are being hospitalized for COVID-19, there are hospitals that have significantly fewer patients and there are some that have significantly more but overall this is a very good sign,” Baker said.
There have been 7.3 million pieces of personal protective equipment delivered throughout the state so far and more than 275,000 tests have been given to residents.