Various cities, counties, and states have recently passed ordinances asking citizens to wear masks in public or when social distancing cannot be maintained.  Many businesses have also posted rules about the use of masks within their establishments.  But many people are still wondering if they really must wear a mask?  And will those rules and ordinances be enforced?

In short, yes. Using the city of Tempe, Arizona as an example, the city issued a proclamation that took effect on June 18, 2020.  The proclamation states that “the COVID-19 outbreak constitutes an immediate threat to life, public health, safety, welfare, and economic viability…”  Due to this the city is requiring individuals to wear face coverings in public settings where it would be “difficult or impossible” to maintain social distancing parameters (6 feet of distance between individuals who do not reside together).

Tempe’s proclamation, as many other cities’ and counties’ mandates do have exceptions to wearing masks, such as (but not limited to):

  • Those who should not wear face coverings due to medical or mental health conditions or disabilities.
  • Children under the age of 6.
  • People whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing face coverings.
  • Restaurant patrons who are eating/drinking.
  • Individuals who are outside and exercising, as long as physical distancing is observed.
  • During dental or medical procedures or while swimming.
  • For public safety workers and first responders, when wearing a face covering would interfere with the ability to do their job.

The Tempe proclamation also states that “continued failure to comply with an emergency proclamation is a misdemeanor…”  While it is unclear the lengths at which municipalities will go to enforce these proclamations, it is clear that these rules are intended to provide public safety to the greatest extent possible. Public health laws give state and local officials the right to enforce rules during a state of emergency.  The Supreme Court has upheld the rights of states to impose restrictions.

Please check your own local ordinances and proclamations to know exactly what is expected in the places you frequent.

Businesses do have the right to make rules and refuse service to those who are unwilling to comply with their rules.  If you fail to abide by a rule at a private business, you may be asked to leave.  If you refuse to leave, you could be charged with the crime of Trespassing.

No individual holds the right to expose others in the community to a communicable disease.

You may fall into the category of exceptions listed in your area and may not have to wear a mask.  But if you do not, please consider doing your part and following local ordinances and proclamations by wearing a mask or other fabric face covering while in public.