Who could have predicted at the start of 2020 that wearing face masks in the U.S. would become the norm? But enter any store, take an Uber, or go for a walk in the park and you’ll see people with face coverings. All of us want to get back to normal — but none of us want to catch or spread Covid-19. So, we seem stuck between a rock and a hard place.
When can we stop wearing masks? That’s the question on everyone’s lips — that’s if you could see their mouths. Wearing face masks shows that things are far from ordinary. Many people predict that we can stop wearing face masks when the Covid-19 spread is under control.
But there are upsurges in confirmed Covid-19 cases. Also, scientists are expecting second waves of outbreaks. And, there’s a general fear of catching the virus. So, it doesn’t seem like we can stop wearing face coverings any time soon.
Read on to find out the facts if wearing a mask will stop the spread of Covid-19. You’ll find out about state ordinances on wearing cloth face coverings in public places. At the end of the article, you’ll find out when we can stop wearing masks.
Do Masks Stop the Spread of Covid-19?
Wearing masks in public is to help states reopen faster and halt or slow the spread of Covid-19. The advice is that face masks are useful in places where social distancing isn’t possible. So, if you’re standing in line at the grocery store, and everyone is wearing a mask, the face covers should protect everyone within six feet from catching Covid-19.
The crucial questions are: if wearing face masks is the best way to halt Covid-19, why is it not federal law? Why do you have to wear face masks in some states and not in others? What does recent scientific research say about wearing face masks?
To say there’s a ton of confusion about coronavirus and face masks is an understatement.
What science says about wearing face masks to stop Covid-19
The official line from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is that we should all wear cloth face coverings. Doctors say that cloth face masks can help prevent Covid-19 from spreading among people. But they are only useful in reducing the spread if “they are widely used by people in public settings.”
Recent medical studies seem to show that masks ordinances can slow down the Covid-19 growth rate. For example, a study published in June 2020 reported on a link between wearing face masks and fewer Covid-19 cases. In 15 states and D.C., the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases dropped by 2% in the first three weeks after mask ordinances came into force.
Of course, wearing face masks is only one of the ways to slow the spread of Covid-19. The CDC warns that face masks are not a substitute for frequent hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, and social distancing. For masks to stop the wearer spreading Covid-19, it has to be used with other preventative actions. Also, it’s essential to wash cloth face coverings after every use.
State Ordinances on Wearing Masks to Stop Covid-19 Infections
Requiring everyone to wear cloth face coverings in public gives states the confidence to ease lockdown restrictions. CNN reported in June that wearing masks is the most effective way to reduce the spread of coronavirus. What’s happening around the country?
In Charleston, SC, from July 1, its law to wear a face mask in public. Anyone who doesn’t have their nose and mouth covered in public faces a fine of $50. Wearing masks is mandatory in retail stores, salons, interacting with people in outdoor spaces, and riding public or commercial transport. Other cities and towns in South Carolina have similar ordinances. However, this is not a state-wide ordinance.
Currently, 19 states in the U.S. have made it mandatory to wear masks in public. In some states, such as South Carolina, local communities have their own order to force everyone to wear masks. In total, all but four of the states in the U.S. have some form of mask guidelines. Here’s a brief overview of what’s happening in some of them:
- District of Columbia — Wearing masks is mandatory when doing essential business, traveling on public transport, or shopping where social distancing isn’t possible.
- Kansas — From July 3, you must wear masks when indoors in public areas.
- Maine — Anyone over the age of two must cover their face in stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and other indoor public spaces.
- Michigan — Businesses have the right to deny entry to anyone not wearing a face mask.
- New Jersey — Wearing face masks has been mandatory since April 8. Anyone conducting essential business, shopping, or traveling on public transport must cover their nose and mouth.
Similar mask ordinances are in force in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.
When Can We Stop Wearing Masks?
Most likely, we can only stop wearing cloth face masks in public when the coronavirus is entirely under control. This probably means that putting on face masks stops when scientists develop a successful vaccine.
But even with mandatory face mask orders in place, there are some places where you don’t have to wear a mask if you’re outdoors. Here are a few examples:
- In your car — You don’t have to cover up in your vehicle with members of your household. If you’re in a taxi or a car with friends, wearing masks is probably a good idea.
- Walking, riding a bike or jogging — In most parts of the country, you can take a walk, ride your bike, or go for a jog without a mask. However, the advice in most states is to always have a clean face mask with you. This is in case you’re in a situation where social distancing is impossible.
- Underlying health conditions — If you have breathing problems — asthma, lung disease, COPD — you don’t need to put a mask on in public. However, because of the way Covid-19 attacks the lungs, social distancing, and hand sanitizing is vital to stay safe and healthy.
- Children — Kids under two years of age don’t have to wear face masks. But states have different laws on the ages when children must put on a mask.
Related reading: Where to buy face masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
When We Can Stop Wearing Masks: A Takeaway
Wearing face masks seems here to stay until Covid-19 is under control. How long the coronavirus pandemic will last, no one knows. Until then, putting on a facemask, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and disinfecting surfaces will be the new norm. These protective measures can help us get on with essential day-to-day activities while protecting ourselves from Covid-19.