Halting the spread of the novel coronavirus is most local governments’ current number-one priority. The virus response has been sweeping, aggressive and surprisingly effective in many places. Despite earlier models showing high death rates throughout March and April, the US trended well under expectations.
Meanwhile, the measures have taken a tangible toll on people’s finances. Many are worried about things like their Humira Medicare cost or their lost income from being out of work.
Our aggressive early measures have helped to flatten the curve. But there is still a lot of work. Part of this includes many local governments requiring face masks to be worn in public. So, which states require you to have face coverings when you go outside?
Connecticut requires masks for people in rideshares, public transit and essential businesses for anyone over the age of two. Hawaii also requires masks, but only for essential workers or people in essential businesses. People are still required to keep six feet away from others while outside.
In Maryland, masks are required on public transportation. New Jersey requires masks at both essential businesses and construction sites. The state also requires masks on public transit. NJ was also the first state to enact mask policies, beginning on April 8.
New York currently requires all persons over age two to wear a mask or facial covering when outside. Theirs is the most strict law in the US right now, offering no insight into when the mask rules will stop. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island also require that essential workers wear masks, and that customers in essential businesses wear them as well.
These orders can cause confusion when they come into conflict with older laws. Many states have laws on the books forbidding wearing masks in public. These laws were originally to prevent the KKK from organizing anonymously. They were later invoked in parts of the 20th and 21st centuries. This prevented protestors from hiding their faces.
Now, however, with many states requiring the use of masks, there is a clear legal conflict. One law requires people to wear masks, while another punishes them for it. Some people of color have expressed unease at this conflict. Many worry that police will racially profile them for wearing a mask. Meanwhile, it’s against the law for them to not have the face coverings.