A man wearing a face mask carries vegetables at the Joshua Tree Certified Farmers' Market amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Joshua Tree, California, US, April 4, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
Residents in the US state of California are required to wear face coverings in public spaces to help slow the spread of COVID-19, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday.
"Science shows that face coverings and masks work," said Newsom in a statement.
"They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy," he added.
Starting Thursday, Californians must wear face coverings in common and public indoor spaces and outdoors when distancing is not possible, according to the state guidelines released by Newsom's administration.
"Over the last four months, we have learned a lot about COVID-19 transmission, most notably that people who are infected but are asymptomatic or presymptomatic play an important part in community spread. The use of face coverings by everyone can limit the release of infected droplets when talking, coughing, and/or sneezing, as well as reinforce physical distancing," the guidelines noted.
"Together -- we can slow the spread. Do your part. Wear a mask," the governor also tweeted.
Children aged two and under and persons with a medical, mental health, or developmental disability that prevents wearing a face covering are on the list of individuals who are exempt from wearing a face covering.
The governor has repeatedly stressed the importance of masks in the state's public safety and reopening strategy amid the pandemic. Newsom's office said earlier this month that Chinese manufacturer BYD Company is shipping 150 million N95 masks to California after 110 million surgical masks from BYD have already been distributed to help sectors in the state reopen safely.
A number of counties in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, require residents to wear face coverings whenever they are outside their homes, while some other counties, such as Orange County, walked back from the mask requirement amid backlash from local residents.
The most populous US state is in the second stage of a four-stage plan for a gradual reopening of the country's largest state economy. Retail, related logistics and manufacturing, office workplaces, limited personal services, outdoor museums, child care and essential businesses can open with modifications in the second stage.
Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19 in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
California, one of the hardest-hit US states in the pandemic, has reported 161,099 cases with 5,290 deaths as of Thursday, according to the California Department of Public Health.