On June 18, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide order manding that people in California wear face coverings in “high-risk” situations. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a guidance document that updates existing guidance regarding the use of cloth face coverings by the public when outside the home. Under the new mandate, individuals in California must wear face coverings in the following “high-risk” situations, as provided in the updated CDPH guidance:

  • Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space (Footnote: Unless exempted by state guidelines for certain public settings);
  • Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank (Footnote: Unless directed otherwise by an employee or healthcare provider);
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle;
  • Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when:
    • Interacting in-person with any member of the public;
    • Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
    • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    • Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities;
    • In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance
  • Driving or operating any public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or private car service or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. When no passengers are present, face coverings are strongly recommended.
  • While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.

Despite the mandate, the updated CDPH guidance exempts various individuals from the requirements, including, but not limited to, “[p]ersons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering.” As relevant to employers, “[p]ersons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition who are employed in a job involving regular contact with others should wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.”

The updated CDPH guidance also provides additional background information on cloth face coverings, including how well cloth face coverings work to deter the spread of COVID-19, when individuals should wear cloth face coverings, and how to care for them.

Employers and businesses in California should continue to monitor for face covering guidance as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.