With the use of face masks shown to have a mitigatory effect on the spread of the coronavirus, more entities across the nation have issued mandates requiring them in public and private spaces.
Even President Donald Trump, once averse to mask-wearing, signaled his support for face coverings last week on Twitter.
And at a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan expanded mask-wearing restrictions mandating that everyone older than 5 must wear masks inside all public buildings, including restaurants, houses of worship, gyms, casinos, stores and office buildings starting Friday at 5 p.m.
Public health experts warn that COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, spreads via droplets that come from the mouth and nose via coughs and sneezes. It can also spread through aerosolized particles that develop through talking, laughing, singing or breathing.
But masks can reduce the size of these droplets and particles and prevent them from spreading, rendering them less likely to infect someone else.
Here’s what else Marylanders should know about their use.
When do I need to wear one?
As of 5 p.m. Friday, everyone older than 5 must wear masks inside all public buildings, including restaurants, houses of worship, gyms, casinos, stores and office buildings.
Masks also will now be required outdoors whenever it is not possible to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from others.
Ocean City requires masks to be worn on the boardwalk between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m., effective at 5 p.m. Friday.
Generally, medical experts say people should consider wearing masks when they are in proximity to others. You don’t necessarily need to wear one if you’re exercising outdoors by yourself or at a safe distance away from others, or if you’re driving alone in your car.
I thought the guidelines varied in each county?
Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County all took the requirements further from the April guidance laid out by Hogan.
The only thing that now differs from the governor’s order to the counties is that in all three, people over the age of 2 are required to wear a mask. Hogan’s order says over 5.
Before Hogan’s action Wednesday, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties had tightened mask rules, requiring them in all indoor public spaces and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.
I thought there already was a statewide mask mandate?
The previous mandate from April only required masks inside grocery stores, pharmacies and on public transit. Hogan’s new order supersedes this one.
What happens if I don’t follow the rules?
According to state and local directives, people who “knowingly and willfully” violate the executive orders on mask-wearing, gathering in large groups or operating businesses without some restrictions in place are guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to one year’s imprisonment or a $5,000 fine or both.
However, it’s likely to start with a warning. In Anne Arundel County, officials said health workers would carry masks to hand out to those without them.
Hogan said at a previous news conference that the solution to growing positivity rates was stricter enforcement by local governments of social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing.
“No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service. It’s really not that hard.”
Why was the guidance stricter in some counties relative to others at one point?
Local jurisdictions are in charge of setting their own guidelines with respect to mask-wearing, social distancing, reopening businesses and sending students and teachers back to school buildings.
Counties can always issue further guidance or relax restrictions as local metrics fluctuate. Baltimore’s positivity rate was recorded at about 9.2% overall Wednesday, with over 9,000 infections since March. Other counties with strict mask-wearing requirements, such as Baltimore County, also have thousands of infections recorded within their borders.
Are some masks better than others?
Some masks, such as N95 respirators, provide more protection from droplets and aerosolized particles than others, according to guidance assembled by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine. But these masks are in short supply and should be reserved for medical professionals and other first responders.
Surgical masks often worn by dentists and doctors also offer a good amount of protection and provide moisture-wicking ability.
Bandanas, scarves and cloth masks are also wearable options. People have made face coverings out of old T-shirts, tablecloths and curtains, and from scratch.
The best masks cover both the mouth and nose, fitting closely around the face. On excessively hot days, people should carry more than one mask with them to change one out when it becomes uncomfortable, Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said last week.
What other states have mask mandates?
Over 30 other states have implemented some sort of mask mandate.
Surrounding Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have all issued mask mandates. Washington D.C. also requires wearing masks outside of the house.
These are the other states that have required face coverings in public or indoor places, although the guidance differs from state to state:
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