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Masks mandated as businesses reopen
masked shopper
The governor mandated the wearing of masks starting Monday to help fight the spread of COVID-19 but it’s up to most businesses to enforce the rule.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the state and in the county, health officials are issuing new orders that mandate wearing face coverings when out in public.

The California Department of Public Health issued an order Thursday requiring all Californians to wear face coverings in all high-risk settings.

“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered – putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease," Newsom said. "California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.” 

While the state issued the order as a mandate, Sheriff Jeff Dirkse and police chiefs in the county said they won’t be enforcing it. Businesses, however, may require masks of their customers as a condition to access. Over the weekend, Turlock Police removed shoppers from the Walmart there because failure to wear a mask violated store policy and was treated as a trespassing charge.

The order mandates the use of cloth face coverings by the general public statewide when outside the home, with limited exceptions. Californians must wear face coverings when they are in the situations listed below:

• Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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 six feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.

The state has issued the following exceptions for individuals exempt from wearing a face mask:

• Children aged two and under.

• Persons with a medical, mental health, or developmental disability that prevents wearing a face covering.

• 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. 

• 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.

• Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are 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 engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.

•Persons who are incarcerated. Prisons and jails, as part of their mitigation plans, will have specific guidance on the wearing of face coverings of masks for both inmates and staff.

Stanislaus County officials announced Wednesday that the county will be issuing a local mandate for county residents to wear face masks. The guidelines have not yet been released, but are expected to follow those of the state and will go into effect Monday.

“I know the idea of mandatory face coverings is difficult news for many people in our community,” said Chair of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Kristin Olsen. “I don’t like wearing one myself. If this were a nanny government policy to protect myself, I wouldn’t support it. But that is not what this is. Face coverings are to protect other people from you. Wearing face coverings is about protecting our neighbors, our family members and our friends. And they will allow public health to open more businesses and activities in our community.”

Ceres City Manager Tom Westbrook said on Monday that he is readying to open up City Hall again, likely for afternoon hours for several weeks.

“We know that our staff will have to protect themselves when they’re interacting with the public,” said Westbrook.

The plan is to open City Council meetings to physical attendance of the public on Monday, July 13. Meetings have been conducted via Zoom on the internet.

Jeff Benziger contributed to the article.