Baker issues new order on face coverings

Allows some discretion, but requires use on transit, at businesses

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER issued an executive order on Friday directing Massachusetts residents to wear face masks in stores, on public transit, and in public places – anywhere it might be difficult to maintain a safe distance of at least six feet from others.

Baker, who has been somewhat slow in embracing face masks, was following the lead of a number of municipal officials who have issued their own orders requiring residents to wear face masks and even imposed fines for noncompliance. The governor’s order takes effect on Wednesday.

“We view this as common sense,” Baker said at a State House press conference. “Everyone doing a small thing all the time can go a long way to improve everyone else’s ability to avoid the virus.”

The governor’s order builds on a guidance he issued on April 10, which in turn built on a new guidance issued previously by the US Centers for Disease Control. Baker has since fully embraced the idea of wearing masks, both to protect the wearer and anyone the wearer comes in contact with.

Baker’s order is less specific than some of those issued by mayors, who typically require residents to wear face masks whenever they leave their house. The key difference is that the governor’s order leaves some discretion to individuals.

For example, he said, someone running by his house in Swampscott at 5:30 a.m. is not likely to run into anyone so could probably run without a mask. But he said someone running at 5:30 p.m. is likely to see a lot more people and should wear a mask.

He said when he and his wife take a walk they either wear their masks or take the masks with them in case they meet someone.

Baker said enforcement of the order would be left primarily to local officials, but he said State Police could provide assistance. The governor’s order says violations of his order may result in a civil fine of $300 per violation.

The order applies to anyone using taxi, car, livery, or ride-sharing services as well as any public transit service or any “enclosed transit stop or waiting area.”

On the MBTA, where many but not all riders wear masks already, spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the agency is exploring its enforcement options.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“The MBTA expects all customers and employees to comply with the governor’s directive mandating face coverings.  We are evaluating what steps the MBTA can take to insure that this important directive is followed,” he said in an email.

The order says business owners can refuse entry to customers who refuse to wear masks.

The governor said his order will be a big change for many people, but he said Massachusetts residents should starting getting accustomed to wearing masks whenever they go out in public. “This is basically going to be a way of life,” he said.