Wearing a mask is required statewide to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask or cloth face covering over your nose and mouth when outside your home can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the release of virus into the air. Wearing a mask shows that you care about the health of others and want to stay safe and save lives.
A mask is only effective if it covers both your nose and mouth. Read the official mask guidance from the California Department of Public Health.
Is wearing a mask the law?
It's now required that everyone in California must wear a mask or face covering when outside of their home, with limited exceptions. Read more in the expanded mask guidance.
Who needs a mask?
To prevent infection, you must cover your nose and mouth when outside your home. Wearing a mask is now required statewide. It can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the release of virus into the air. Cloth masks or face coverings can reduce your exposure to infectious droplets through filtration. It also reinforces physical distancing, and shows you care about the health of others.
Who should not wear a mask?
Some people are exempt from wearing face coverings at all times:
- Children younger than two years old. These very young children must not wear a face covering because of the risk of suffocation.
- Those with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes those with rare medical conditions for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
- Those who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired. In these cases, the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Those 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.
Read the official mask guidance from the California Department of Public Health.
See a complete list of who should not wear a mask.
When should you wear a mask?
You should wear a mask or face covering when you are around someone you do not live with, including:
- Inside any public space
- Outdoors, if you can't stay 6 feet away from others
- When waiting in line
- When getting health care
- On public transportation or when ride-sharing
- At work, when near others or moving through common areas
When can you take off your mask?
Individuals are excepted from wearing masks in the following specific settings:
- When in a car alone or solely with members of their own household.
- When working in an office or in a room alone.
- When actively eating or drinking. You should maintain a distance of at least six feet from those not in your household.
- When outdoors and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance from others not in their household. You must have a face covering with you at all times and must put it on if you are within 6 feet of others who are not in your household.
- When getting a service to the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary.
- When your job requires you to wear respiratory protection.
- When you are specifically exempted from wearing face coverings by [other CDPH guidance].
How to wear a mask?
Wear a mask correctly and consistently for the best protection.
- Your mask should cover your nose and mouth, go under your chin, and fit snugly against the sides of your face
- Be sure to wash your hands before putting on a mask
- Do not touch the mask when wearing it
The CDC has more information about how to wear masks.
What is a face covering?
A face covering, also known as a cloth mask, is material that covers the nose and mouth
. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.
How well do face coverings prevent spread of COVID-19?
Multi-layer cloth masks can both block up to 50-70% of fine droplets and particles, and limit the forward spread of those that are not captured. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes. Cloth masks can also reduce your exposure to infectious droplets through filtration. Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill, but complements them.
How should I care for a cloth mask or face covering?
It's a good idea to wash your face covering frequently, ideally after each use. Have a bag or bin to keep face coverings in until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. If you must re-wear your face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard face coverings that:
- No longer cover the nose and mouth
- Have stretched out or damaged ties or straps
- Cannot stay on the face
- Have holes or tears in the fabric
See advice from the CDC on how to select, wear, and clean your mask.
Are face shields acceptable as face coverings to prevent spread of COVID-19?