Baker orders all Mass. residents to wear face masks in public

BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced an executive order requiring all Massachusetts residents and essential workers to wear a mask or face-covering in public to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting on Wednesday, May 6, any resident or worker who can not safely practice social distancing in public must wear a mask or face-covering, Baker said during a news conference at the State House.

“As we continue to think about the future and a return to a new normal, covering our faces when we cannot practice social distancing is easy, critically important, and an essential step that everyone can and should take to stop or slow the spread,” Baker said. “Earlier today, I signed an executive order requiring residents to use a face-covering in public places when they cannot socially distance from others.”

RELATED: Expert report predicts up to two more years of pandemic misery

Baker’s order does not apply to children under the age of 2 or people who are unable to wear a mask or face-covering due to medical conditions.

Masks or face coverings must be worn inside grocery stores, retail stores, and while riding public transportation, according to Baker

Baker said face coverings can be made from a shirt, bandanna, or other breathable fabrics. Disposable masks are also an option. Residents are “strongly discouraged” from wearing medical-grade masks.

“Those [medical-grade masks] should be prioritized for healthcare workers and first responders,” Baker said.

Those who are found in violation of the order could face a $300 fine.

Baker also urged all residents to continue to stay at home when possible, avoid large gatherings, and practice social distancing because those efforts have been “making a big difference” in the fight against coronavirus.

RELATED: This is the most dangerous place in the grocery store

“This order builds on that same idea that everyone doing a small thing, all the time, can go a long way to improving everyone else’s ability to avoid the virus,” Baker said.

Anyone who visits a park, a beach, or goes out for a walk or run, should have a mask in hand, according to Baker.

Prior to announcing the order, Baker said that COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the Commonwealth have “slightly decreased” in recent days.

“While there are still thousands of people in need of hospital-level care, this number has not gone up, which is a very good thing,” Baker said.

Baker cautioned that different parts of Massachusetts are at different stages of the pandemic and that some hospitals have “significantly more” COVID-19 patients than others.

Earlier this week, Baker extended the state’s non-essential business closure order and stay-at-home advisory to at least May 18.

Click here for more coronavirus coverage.

(Copyright (c) 2020 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)