The 10 States With the Strictest Face Mask Laws

Don't be caught in these states if you can't social distance and aren't wearing a face mask.

Since the beginning of April, face masks have become a staple in our lives as a preventative measure against the coronavirus. On Apr. 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that everyone should wear cloth face coverings in "public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain." And even the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers require workers to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, when it comes down to whether or not you have to wear a face mask, not all states are created equal. Some merely recommend residents wear face coverings, others only require them for certain groups, and others mandate all residents wear masks in public. If you want to know which states have the strictest face mask laws, read on to see where they're required for pretty much everyone. And for more guidelines across the states, check out States Are Banning This One Type of Face Mask.


Fall foliage along the Connecticut River in Hartford. Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. Hartford is known for its attractive architectural styles and being the Insurance capital of the United States

Connecticut requires face masks for people across the board, according to Littler, a law firm that focuses on labor and employment law. The state requires restaurant and retail employees and customers, office-based business employees, and personal care service employees and patrons to wear face masks. In fact, in the state of Connecticut, employers are required to provide face coverings for employees. And for more state requirements, check out the 10 States Where You Will Be Fined for Not Social Distancing.


Saturated early morning light hits the buildings and architecture of downtown Wilmington Delaware

In Delaware, all individuals are required to wear a face covering in public places, except for those who have health conditions or are under the age of two. Employees who work in areas open to the general public must wear face masks, and their employers are required to provide them. "Unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food," businesses must decline entry to anyone refusing to wear a mask—and those businesses must "provide alternate methods of pickup and/or delivery of such goods."


Chicago, USA - July 2015: The sculpture "Cloud Gate" also nicknamed "The Bean," located in Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois. Sculpture was created by Anish Kapoor.

Anyone over the age of two is required to wear a face covering in Illinois while in a public place where it is "impractical to maintain six feet of physical distance between themselves and others." That means all employees and patrons must wear face coverings when it is impossible to social distance.


Baltimore, Maryland, USA Skyline over the Inner Harbor at dusk.

Maryland has an extensive list of face mask requirements for residents. For public transportation, all riders and operators are required to wear face coverings. Customers over the age of nine are required to wear face masks while in retail or food service establishments, and adult customers with children under the age of nine but above the age of two must "use reasonable efforts to ensure children wear face coverings." All retail and food service establishments also must require staff and customers to wear face coverings.


Night view of Boston skyline and watefront on a windy day

Any resident over the age of two must wear a face covering while out in public in Massachusetts, including when in essential businesses or on public transportation. For essential businesses, this applies to both customers and employees, and if a customer refuses to wear a face covering for non-medical reasons, they can be denied entry. And for more face mask tips, check out Every Face Mask You Can Buy—Ranked by Effectiveness.


Aerial view of downtown Detroit at sunset in Michigan, USA

Michigan state law says that "any individual able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth—such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief—when in any enclosed public space." And both businesses and building owners are allowed to deny entry to anyone who refuses to follow that requirement. Any in-person businesses must also provide their workers with "gloves, googles, face shields, and face masks as appropriate for the activity being performed."

New Jersey

Newark is the largest city in New Jersey. Newark is one of largest rail and air hubs in the nation. Newark is known for its glamorous performing arts venues, premium outlet mall, museums, and the argest collection of cherry blossoms.

Customers and employees of essential businesses in New Jersey, which include retail, restaurants, manufacturing, warehousing, and essential construction, must wear cloth face coverings at work. The state's public transit system, as well as private transit companies, must also require workers and patrons to wear face coverings while on trains, buses, and light rail vehicles. And for face mask misconceptions you need to stop believing, check out the 10 Myths About Face Masks You Need to Know.

New York

The vast skyline of Manhattan island taken from a helicopter at a golden hour.

When in a public New York space where social distancing is unable to be maintained, residents must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth. Employees that work directly with members of the public must be provided with face coverings by their employers and any business can deny entry to those not wearing a face covering. And to make sure you're wearing your mask correctly, check out This Is the One Face Mask People Are Still Wearing Wrong.


Philadelphia downtown skyline with blue sky and white cloud

Not including health care providers, any business in Pennsylvania that serves the public within "a building or defined area" must require all patrons to wear a mask and deny entry to those not wearing one (unless they have a medical condition preventing them from doing so or children under the age of two). For businesses providing medication, medical supplies, or food, they must provide alternative methods of pickup or delivery for those not wearing masks. Employers must also provide employees with masks that are mandatory to wear while at work.


Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Utah

In any "place of public accommodation," Utah residents must wear a cloth face covering that covers their nose and mouth. This includes retail and grocery stores, and any other place where social distancing is not possible. Employers must also require employees to wear masks. The state even has a "Mask for Every Utahn" program, wherein the state promises to provide one mask to each resident who needs one, and will mail up to six masks to each household (upon request and free of charge). And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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