Order requiring Mass. residents, visitors to wear face coverings in public goes into effect

BOSTON (WHDH) - An executive order requiring everyone over the age of 2 years old to wear a face covering in public in Massachusetts went into effect Wednesday to help further slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced the order last Friday, stating that anyone who cannot maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others and is not wearing a mask will face a fine of up to $300.

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.

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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 at a press conference outside the State House last week.

The governor said that getting everyone in the state on board with this order is not a reasonable expectation; however, he thinks the majority will choose to cover up.

“The main reason you wear a mask is partially to protect yourself but mostly to protect others from you,” he said after touring a company in Fall River that will be manufacturing millions of pieces of personal protective equipment. “For a significant portion of the population that gets this virus and carries it and can past it on to others, there is a growing amount of evidence that they are not going to show symptoms at all or know they ever had it.”

Baker also delivered a word of progress and hope, stating that the number of coronavirus hospitalizations is on the decline.

Only 10 percent of about 10,000 COVID-19 tests administered Monday came back positive, which is the lowest percentage the Bay State has seen since early March when about 5,000 tests were being conducted each day, according to Baker.

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“We’ve seen a pretty downward trend on the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 for just about a week,” Baker said. “That’s a really encouraging sign and a key piece of data that we watch closely with respect to almost all issues associated with how we’re doing. We’re still very much in the fight against the virus but it’s encouraging, I think for everybody, to see progress.”

In order for Massachusetts to lift its non-essential business closure order and stay-home advisory in favor of a phased reopening on May 18, Baker said there needs to be a steady trend of dropping hospitalizations.

“As we get through the other side of this and start to determine the next steps for going forward, we need to see these numbers continue to fall,” Baker explained.

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