June 20, 2020 – On Thursday, the California Department of Public Health updated the guidance for face coverings, mandating masks in public settings – with some exceptions. The key paragraph reads: “This document updates existing CDPH guidance for the use of cloth face coverings by the general public when outside the home. It mandates that face coverings be worn state-wide in the circumstances and with the exceptions outlined below. It does not substitute for existing guidance about social distancing and handwashing.

The overwhelming majority of Californians, including Nevada County residents, has no issue wearing a mask when shopping or entering an office. Those who object state a guidance is not a mandate, much less a law. The explainer below clarifies why the guidance is a legal mandate.

Connecting the dots

Governor Newsom declared a State of Emergency on March 4, 2020.

The first order in the proclamation reads: “l. In preparing for and responding to COVID-19, all agencies of the state government use and employ state personnel, equipment, and facilities or perform any and all activities consistent with the direction of the Office of Emergency Services and the State Emergency Plan, as well as the California Department of Public Health and the Emergency Medical Services Authority. Also, all residents are to heed the advice of emergency officials with regard to this emergency in order to protect their safety.” (emphasis added)

On March 12, 2020 the Governor issued an executive order which reads, in part: “NOW, THEREFORE, I, GAVIN NEWSOM, Governor of the State of California, in accordance with the authority vested in me by the State Constitution and statutes of the State of California, and in particular, Government Code sections 8567, 8571 and 8572, do hereby issue the following order to become effective immediately:


  1. All residents are to heed any orders and guidance of state and local public health officials, including but not limited to the imposition of social distancing measures, to control the spread of COVID-19.”

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued and updated guidelines under the emergency declaration and the executive order authority. This includes the phased reopening of businesses, guidance for schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities etc. It also includes the wearing of face coverings.

Peer-reviewed science on mask wearing:

  • Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19 From the abstract: “We conclude that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work also highlights the fact that sound science is essential in decision-making for the current and future public health pandemics.”
  • Face Masks Considerably Reduce COVID-19 Cases in Germany: A Synthetic Control Method Approach. From the abstract: “Depending on the region we analyse, we find that face masks reduced the cumulative number of registered Covid-19 cases between 2.3% and 13% over a period of 10 days after they became compulsory. Assessing the credibility of the various estimates, we conclude that face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%.”