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Masks are mandatory starting today. Here’s what to know

Marissa Jazmin made a selfie with Jahna Goldmore while practicing social distancing on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston on Wednesday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker’s order that everyone wear a face covering takes effect today. It requires everyone in Massachusetts to wear a face covering when they’re in a public place — inside or outside — and can’t distance themselves from others.

Here’s what to know about the mandate:

What’s the rule?

The mandate requires everyone to wear a face covering when they are in public and cannot be at least 6 feet away from others. This includes time spent in businesses, outside, and on public transportation.

Face coverings do not have to be medical masks. In fact, Baker is urging residents not to buy medical masks so there will be enough available for medical workers and first responders. You can use a T-shirt or bandanna as a face covering or create your own homemade mask.


What about runners?

The mask requirement includes runners, and Governor Baker addressed that question specifically Friday: “I see people jog by my house when I’m up at 5:30, 6 o’clock in the morning — they’re all by themselves, there’s nobody out. The likelihood they’re going to pass, run into, or come anywhere near anybody is pretty slim," Baker said. "But if you were to ask me that same question at 5:30 in the afternoon or 6 o’clock when there’s a lot of people out, I think that person should wear a face covering, yeah. Because they are going to end up spending a fair amount of time during the course of that run well within 6 feet of a whole lot of other people.”

Days before Baker’s comments, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh also pleaded with runners and cyclists to wear a mask when exercising.

When does this begin?

The mandate goes into effect today.

Is anyone exempt from the face-covering requirement?

Anyone who has a medical condition that would prevent them from wearing a face covering is exempt. Children under the age of 2 “should not wear face coverings or masks,” state guidance says.


What about toddlers and young children?

The state released guidance saying that kids aged 2 and older should wear a face covering — but there’s a little wiggle room.

“Mask use by children 2 years of age and up to the age of 5 is encouraged but should be at the discretion of the child’s parent or guardian at this time,” the guidance says. “Parents and guardians should ensure that the mask fits snugly and does not obstruct a child’s ability to breathe.”

What is the fine if you don’t wear a face covering?

People who do not wear a face covering may face a fine of up to $300. Enforcement is expected to be handled by local officials.

How can I make a mask?

The good news is face coverings are fairly easy to throw together, and in a pinch, you can use a scarf or a bandanna — as long as it covers both your nose and mouth, and can fit snugly around the sides of your face.

For those of us with a sewing machine and thread-and-needle know-how, there are several different tutorials on how to make a face covering available online.

How to sew your own face mask
Kayla Girdner, an instructor at Gather Here, demonstrates how to sew your own face mask. The store is also selling kits to sew your own face mask. (Shelby Lum|Globe Staff)

Even if you don’t know how to sew, making a mask can still be done in a jiff — and all that’s needed is a piece of cloth, such as an old T-shirt or bedsheet, and two elastics.

How to make a mask without sewing
Kayla Girdner, an instructor at Gather Here, demonstrates how to make a face mask that doesn't require any sewing. (Shelby Lum|Globe Staff)

One thing to note: New research shows that making a face covering from a combination of cotton with silk, chiffon, or flannel can create a filter that’s nearly as good as an N95 mask that’s used in medical settings.


If you’re woefully craft-challenged, several retailers are selling both cloth and disposable coverings. Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are among the more popular online sites hawking such wares. (However, note that shipping on many of these orders could be delayed by days or even weeks due to demand and coronavirus-related business restrictions.)

And stay away from N95 and other medical-grade masks, since those should be reserved for healthcare and other front-line workers.

When will the mandate expire?

The new order will “remain in effect until rescinded or until the emergency is terminated, whichever happens first.”

Does covering my face mean I can get within 6 feet of people?

Although the order says coverings the masks should be worn “when unable to maintain a distance of approximately 6 feet,” guidance from health officials specifically states: “The use of a mask does not replace important social distancing measures.”

“All individuals must continue to maintain more than 6 feet of distance from other people; wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; and stay home when sick,” state guidance says.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss