What are the rules about wearing face masks in Massachusetts?

Gov. Charlie Baker’s new guidelines go into effect today, but what does this mean for you and daily life?

Catherine McGloin, Editor-in-chief

From today, runners, dog walkers, grocery shoppers — anyone in Massachusetts out in public spaces — must wear a face covering.

The mandatory-mask order, made by Gov. Charlie Baker May 1, goes into effect today to help stop the spread of COVID-19 across the state, and will be enforced until further notice. It requires all residents, over the age of two, to wear a face covering in public places when it is not possible to socially distance.  

So, what does this mean for you? Here are some guidelines about how to navigate the new rules:

When do I have to wear a face covering?

Whenever you are in a public place, which means pretty much from the moment you step out your front door to the time you return, unless you’re going to another private residence, which is unlikely if you’re following social distancing measures. More specifically:

  • Inside or queuing outside of grocery stores, pharmacies or any other retail establishment
  • When riding Uber, or traveling with any other ride-sharing or similar provider, both passenger and driver must wear face coverings
  • On any form of public transit, including the T 
  • When waiting for public transport at a station or stop

What if I don’t wear one, what will happen?

Aside from putting yourself at risk, and potentially exposing those around you to the virus, businesses may ban you from entering their establishment and you could be fined up to $300 per violation. If you have a medical condition that makes wearing a face covering difficult or even dangerous, then this order exempts you from having to wear one.

When can I take my face covering off?

In your own home. The governor’s order applies to inside and outside, so while you’re in stores, waiting to pick-up takeout, at a bus stop, masks need to stay on.

Do I still have to practice social distancing if I have my mask on?

Yes. Continue to stay 6 feet away from others when possible in public. Only leave your home for essential trips and stay at home if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms. Keep washing your hands regularly, avoid sticking your fingers in your eyes nose or mouth, sanitize surfaces at home, and cover your mouth when coughing with your inner elbow or a tissue.

How do I wear a mask properly?

Cloth face coverings should sit close to the side of your face and across your nose. They should be secured to your head with either ties or ear loops and preferably made with multiple layers of fabric. They shouldn’t restrict or obstruct air flow. To remove a face covering safely, do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth, and wash hands or sanitize them straight after uncovering your face.

Read about how we’re covering COVID-19 and our sustained commitment to telling stories of hope, justice and resilience.

Can face masks be sterilized and reused?

Medical face masks cannot be cleaned and reused, they must be disposed of properly and with minimal face-touching. Fabric face coverings should be made with materials that are machine washable, and can be cleaned regularly to ensure they are not contaminated and can be safely reused.

I don’t have a mask. Where can I buy one, or find instructions on how to make one?

Don’t worry, you do not have to wear a medical mask — the state actually prefers you not to wear them but to save these resources for frontline workers. Instead, any fabric will suffice. An old t-shirt, bandana, pantyhose, all are perfectly good materials from which you can craft a face covering. The Center for Disease Control has a how-to guide, or watch U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams make one.



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