Mask Wearing in the Community
Last updated May 23, 2023 at 8:05 AM
Masking is still an important tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Consider local COVID-19 case rates, your own risk factors, and your own comfort level with potential exposure to the virus to determine when and where to wear a mask.
On this page:
Why wear a mask
Here are 3 reasons you might wear a mask:
- To protect yourself. The most protective masks against viruses like COVID-19 are N95, KN95, and KF94 masks that have good fit and filtration. Masking in indoor public places is particularly important if you have an underlying health condition, are 50 or older, or have a weak immune system that increases your risk for severe COVID-19. It’s also important to wear a mask if you are caring for someone who is sick.
- To protect others. Wear a mask when you are sick and have symptoms of a respiratory infection. Masks are also important for protecting vulnerable people in high-risk settings.
- To follow local requirements. Be sure to follow any local masking rules in effect. Your local community facility or health center can require it.
When to wear a mask
Masks are recommended for everyone in indoor public settings when many in the community may currently have COVID-19 and be infectious to others. Please refer to your local health department for local data.
- If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a cough, runny nose, or sore throat
- In crowded indoor settings, such as in airplanes, trains, and buses
- In public areas around people who are older or have medical conditions that put them at increased risk for severe COVID-19
- For 10 days after having a significant exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
- If you have tested positive. See additional guidance at What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19
Your local area may require masks in certain settings. Check your area’s COVID-19 website.
Upgrade your mask
When cases are on the rise or your risk is higher, increase your protection by upgrading your mask.
When wearing a mask, make sure it fits to your face closely, does not have gaps, and has good filtration.
The following individuals should not wear masks:
- Children under two years old, due to the risk of suffocation
- People with:
- A medical condition,
- Mental health condition, or
- Disability that precludes wearing a mask. This includes those:
- For whom a mask could obstruct breathing;
- Who are unconscious or incapacitated; and
- Who are unable to remove a mask without help
- People for whom wearing a mask would create a risk as they work, as determined by:
- Local, state, or federal regulators; or
- Workplace safety guidelines
Masking at work
For information on masking in the workplace, please refer to:
- The Cal/OSHA Enforcement Branch
- COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations
- COVID-19 Non-Emergency Regulation: What Employers Need to Know
- COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations Frequently Asked Questions