Mask Mandate, Suggestion or Law?
- By: Kelsey Walsh
This year has been rough, and in the land of COVID misinformation abounds, leaving many with questions, such as, “Do I really have to wear a mask?” There have been numerous executive orders issued since March, 2020, all seemingly the same and at the same time contradicting one another. Early on in the pandemic the back and forth surrounding the science behind wearing masks and whether they are effective in protecting against the virus was enough to give anyone whiplash. Today, in California, it is the law.
According to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-25-20 issued March 12, 2020, “All residents are to heed any orders and guidance of state and local public health officials, including but not limited to the imposition of social distancing measures to control the spread of COVID-19.” Put simply, the executive order requires Californians to follow public health guidelines and grants the state the ability to enforce California Department of Public Health guidance. The California Emergency Services Act allows the Governor broad authority to respond to state emergencies, such as requiring face coverings in public and stay-at-home orders. Additionally, pursuant to Government Code section 8567, subdivision (a), these executive orders have the “force and effect of law,” and carry with them misdemeanor enforcement authority. The CDPH states that all Californians are required to wear face coverings when in public spaces and maintain six feet of physical distance from others. Interacting in-person with any member of the public is considered a “high-risk situation.” Due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in California and throughout the nation, the Center for Disease Control, as well as local health departments, have issued guidelines to help combat its spread. The recommendations from these public health departments became enforceable under law pursuant to the Governor’s executive orders. As such, any person who violates or who refuses or willfully neglects to obey any lawful order is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or imprisonment, or both (Gov. Code § 8665).