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Anti Mask Laws by State 2024

Anti Mask Laws by State 2024

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask has been highly recommended by medical professionals to prevent the spread of the virus. Wearing a mask is believed to be so effective that 34 states and the District of Columbia have mandated masks or face coverings in public places. However, there are previous laws that penalize those who wear face masks.

The History of Anti-Mask Laws

Anti-mask laws prohibit the wearing of face coverings in public places. Some of these are blanket bans on wearing any mask in public while others bar the wearing of masks to commit a crime or deprive a person of their constitutional rights. Many of these laws were enacted to combat the Ku Klux Klan but the laws have also been used against people protesting racism or corruption.

The first anti-mask law was passed in 1845 in New York. The provisions were passed to provide public safety after disputes between landlords and tenant farmers led to a revolt in upstate New York. Anti-mask laws have been challenged in the U.S. because they violate the First Amendment rights to free speech and free association. These challenges have been struck down by courts based on public safety interests. The Georgia Supreme Court decided that wearing a mask was a sign of intimidation and a threat of violence.

States With Anti-Mask Laws

The states with anti-mask laws in the U.S. prior to 2020 include Florida, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, California, and New York. There were also anti-mask laws in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia and New York both repealed their anti-mask laws in June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anti-mask laws vary by state. In South Carolina, no person over 16 can wear a mask that conceals their identity in public except for traditional holiday costumes, for one’s employment, theater productions, or gas masks for specific purposes. Similar laws exist in Georgia, North Carolina, and West Virginia. In Louisiana and Minnesota, the laws make an exception for religious face coverings. Virginia’s provisions make an exception for medical reasons and if the governor declares an emergency exemption.

California, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Florida make it an offense to wear a mask if the person commits a crime or intends to commit a crime. Additionally, in Florida, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, it is an offense to wear a mask with the intent to harass or intimidate another person. In Connecticut, Delaware, and New Mexico, anti-mask laws require the wearer to intend to deprive another person of their constitutional rights.

Anti-Mask Laws and COVID-19

So, are people wearing masks to protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic breaking the law? The states with anti-mask laws may cause confusion when people are being urged to wear face coverings to help protect themselves.

In mid-2020, Alabama’s Attorney General had to publicly announce that the state would not enforce its anti-mask law during the COVID-19 pandemic. This law has since been The Governor of Georgia similarly had to sign an executive order suspending the enforcement of the mask law if the mask is being worn to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

Anti Mask Laws by State 2024

  • In many states with anti-mask laws, the COVID-19 pandemic's mask mandates required the state to temporarily suspend existing anti-mask laws.
  • In some states, anti-mask laws were originally implemented to suppress the activity of mask-wearing hate groups such as the Klu Klux Klan.
  • In many states, anti-mask laws apply only if the wearer has harmful intent, such as committing a crime (California, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida, Washington DC) or deprive another person of their constitutional rights (Connecticut, Delaware, New Mexico).

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Anti-Mask Law in Effect
Date COVID Mask Mandate Lifted
COVID Mask Status
COVID Mask Specifics
AlabamaNo2021-April-09RecommendedIndividuals are recommended to wear a mask following CDC masking guidance.
AlaskaNo2022-February-28RecommendedMasks are recommended in public places in areas of substantial or high community transmission.
ArizonaNo2021-May-20RecommendedIndividuals are recommended to wear masks in accordance with CDC guidance.
ArkansasNo2021-March-31RecommendedIndividuals are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance for mask use.
CaliforniaYes2022-March-01Required in limited settingsMasks are strongly advised when indoors when the local DCD community level is High. Businesses may choose to require patrons to wear masks, and may not force patrons to remove masks. Masks are required in high-risk settings such as healthcare facilities. Cal/OSHA may require masks during outbreaks. If employees require masks, the employer must provide them. Employers must adhere to guidelines regarding masks on employer-provided transportation. Employees cannot be prohibited from wearing masks unless doing so would create a safety hazard. Employers may not retaliate against workers who choose to wear a mask. Face shields are not considered a proper face covering.
ColoradoNo2021-May-14RecommendedMasks are recommended under certain circumstances, including after exposure to COVID-19. Masks may be required in some workplaces, including healthcare and congregate living settings. Businesses may, at their discretion, continue to require individuals entering or within their locations to wear face coverings.
ConnecticutYes2022-February-28RecommendedMasks remain required in schools if the local school board or similar local authority institutes a requirement. Private businesses may require masks to be worn on their premises.
DelawareYes2022-February-11RecommendedMasks are recommended for individuals per CDC guidance, and required in healthcare and long term care settings.
District of ColumbiaNo2022-March-01Required in limited settingsThe requirement to wear a mask in indoor public places has been lifted for most locations and businesses. Masks remain required in specified healthcare, education, transportation, and congregate settings. Private businesses may continue to require their employees and patrons to wear masks. A private business cannot bar its employees from wearing masks unless other legal requirements compel the removal of masks or mask use would pose a danger to employees or the public. A face shield is not an acceptable alternative for wearing a mask.
FloridaYes2021-May-03N/A"Businesses are advised to no longer require facial coverings for employees, as there is no proven significant clinical benefit for facial coverings among the general population."
GeorgiaYes2021-August-15RecommendedIndividuals should follow the CDC masking guidance.
HawaiiNo2022-March-25RecommendedThe mask mandate has expired. Masks are still strongly recommended for people over age 65, with compromised immune systems, who care for people at risk of severe illness and those unvaccinated for COVID-19.
IdahoNo2021-May-28RecommendedIndividuals should wear a mask in public places in accordance with CDC guidelines.
IllinoisNo2022-February-28RecommendedThe mask mandate has been lifted. Individuals must continue to wear masks where required under federal law regardless of vaccination status. Private businesses and municipalities may choose to implement their own masking requirements.
IndianaNo2021-April-06RecommendedMasks remain required in certain healthcare and congregate settings. Otherwise, individuals are encouraged to follow the CDC guidelines for masks.
IowaNo2022-May-16RecommendedThe state's public COVID-19 resources do not include information on masking.
KansasNoRecommendedAll individuals over age 2 should wear a face covering in indoor public spaces.
KentuckyNo2021-June-11RecommendedMasks are recommended following exposure, for high-risk individuals, and for everyone when the community risk level is high.
LouisianaYes2021-October-27RecommendedThe mask mandate has been lifted. Masks remain recommended indoors in public settings, and in private settings as well, for individuals at a high risk of severe outcome, which includes older people and those with underlying health conditions.
MaineNo2021-May-24RecommendedIndividuals who are close contacts of a person with COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19 should wear a face covering when around other people for 10 days. All individuals should follow CDC masking guidance.
MarylandNo2021-July-01RecommendedAll individuals are recommended to wear face coverings regardless of their vaccination status. Individual businesses may still enforce their own requirements.
MassachusettsNo2021-May-29Required in limited settingsAll individuals are advised to wear masks when indoors outside of their own homes if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease. Masks are also required regardless of vaccination status in certain settings, including while in health care facilities.
MichiganYes2021-June-22RecommendedAll individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should continue to practice masking in high-risk congregate settings (including long-term and health care facilities, jails and correctional facilities and shelters). All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, should also wear a mask during isolation and quarantine periods to stop further community spread.
MinnesotaYes2021-May-14RecommendedIndividuals should follow CDC masking guidance. Businesses and local jurisdictions retain discretion to impose mask requirements. Masks may be required in specified settings, including healthcare facilities and certain congregate facilities.
MississippiNo2021-March-01RecommendedIndividuals are recommended to wear a face covering while in indoor public spaces when social distancing from people of other households is not possible.
MissouriNo2022-February-28RecommendedIndividuals should follow CDC masking guidance.
MontanaNo2021-February-12RecommendedMasks are recommended as a mitigation measure following CDC guidelines.
NebraskaNo2022-February-01RecommendedResidents are recommended to wear a cloth face covering in public places where they cannot stay 6 feet away from others.
NevadaNo2022-February-10RecommendedThe mask mandate has been lifted. High-risk individuals are encouraged to continue wearing masks. Businesses may implement mask requirements.
New HampshireNo2021-April-16RecommendedMask use is recommended per CDC guidance. Businesses, organizations, and event organizers are able to require employees, visitors, and customers wear face masks upon entering their facility or venue as a best practice.
New JerseyNo2021-May-28RecommendedBusinesses should encourage individuals to wear a mask indoors. Businesses have the right to require stricter mask policies, but businesses are not allowed to restrict the use of face masks by their staff, customers, or visitors.
New MexicoYes2022-February-17RecommendedBusinesses should adhere to the latest CDC guidance on masking.
New YorkYes2022-September-07Required in limited settingsGeneral Requirements. Persons aged 2+ and able to medically tolerate a face-covering may be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, physical distance if the state health commissioner determines that masks must be required. Masks remain required in healthcare facilities and a few other specified settings. Businesses must provide, at their expense, face-coverings for their employees required to wear a mask or face-covering in settings where masks are required. A business cannot deny employment or services to or discriminate against any person on the basis that such person elects to wear a face-covering that is designed to inhibit the transmission of COVID-19, but that is not designed to otherwise obscure the identity of the individual. NY HERO Act. Additional employer requirements apply when the state health commissioner designates an airborne infectious disease as a highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public, pursuant to the NY HERO Act. The designation is no longer in effect (the designation expired 3/17/2022). When the designation is in effect, employees will wear appropriate face coverings in accordance with guidance from State Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as applicable. Consistent with the guidance from the State Department of Health, if indoor areas do not have a mask or vaccine requirement as a condition of entry, appropriate face coverings are recommended, but not required. It is also recommended that face coverings be worn by unvaccinated individuals, including those with medical exemptions, in accordance with federal CDC guidance.
North CarolinaYes2021-May-14RecommendedIndividuals are recommended to wear a mask when in indoor public spaces consistent with CDC guidance. Businesses may decide to require masks.
North DakotaYes2021-January-18RecommendedMasks are recommended following CDC guidance.
OhioYes2021-June-02RecommendedMasks are recommended for all individuals in public indoor spaces. Local jurisdictions and businesses may choose to continue to require masks.
OklahomaYes2021-May-01RecommendedFace coverings are recommended in public spaces per CDC guidelines.
OregonNo2022-March-12Required in limited settingsGeneral. The general mask requirement has been lifted. The state health department recommends that people at high risk of severe disease and hospitalization, especially in communities with medium or high levels of transmission per the CDC's COVID-19 Community Levels, continue to wear masks in indoor settings. Businesses and workplaces may require that individuals wear masks. Individuals who wish to continue to wear masks to protect against COVID-19 are free to do so. Masks remain required in healthcare settings, certain congregate settings, on public transportation, and other limited settings as specified. Oregon OSHA. An employer must provide masks, face coverings, or face shields for employees at no cost to the employees. If an employee chooses to wear their own mask, face covering, or face shield instead of those provided by the employer, the employer may allow it but is not required to do so. When an employee chooses to wear a filtering facepiece respirator to protect against COVID-19, the employer must allow that use and follow the "voluntary use" provisions of the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). An employer is not obligated to provide filtering facepiece respirators to employees, nor are most employers required to provide or allow any other type of respirator. When an employee chooses to wear a mask, face covering, or face shield even when it is not required, the employer must allow them to do so. Masks remain required in workplaces designated "exceptional risk."
PennsylvaniaNo2021-June-28RecommendedIndividuals are urged to follow CDC guidance for wearing a mask where required by law, rule, and regulations, including healthcare, local business and workplace guidance.
Rhode IslandNo2022-February-11RecommendedMasks are recommended as a prevention measure against COVID-19. Businesses and venues have the ability to create their own masking and vaccination policies.
South CarolinaYes2021-May-11RecommendedIndividuals should follow CDC masking guidance.
South DakotaNoRecommendedPeople are encouraged to follow CDC masking guidance.
TennesseeNo2021-November-12RecommendedMembers of the public are encouraged to wear a face covering in public places.
TexasNo2021-March-10RecommendedMasks are recommended per CDC guidance.
UtahNo2021-April-10RecommendedMask use is encouraged based on CDC recommendations.
VermontNo2021-June-15RecommendedMasks are recommended as a preventative measure in times of higher risk of transmission.
VirginiaNo2021-May-28RecommendedEmployers should provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate. Some employers may have continuing obligations related to PPE and respiratory protection under the Virginia OSH Act. The Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Labor and Industry will not allow or condone illegal discrimination based on wearing or not wearing masks, and people should not be fired or terminated for not wearing a mask, subject to federal requirements. General Guidance. Individuals should wear a mask in accordance with CDC guidelines.
WashingtonNo2022-March-12Required in limited settingsThe mask requirement has transitioned to a recommendation for most individuals and settings. Masks continue to be required in some settings, including health care, long-term care and correctional facilities. Local health jurisdictions and individual businesses may still choose to require masks. Employers that do not require employees or contractors to wear a specific type of personal protective equipment must accommodate an employee's or contractor's voluntary use of that specific type of protective device or equipment, including gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks, as the employee or contractor deems necessary. This requirement applies only when: (a) the voluntary use of these protective devices and equipment does not introduce hazards to the work environment and is consistent with Division of Occupational Safety and Health regulations; (b) the use of facial coverings does not interfere with an employer's security requirements; and (c) the voluntary use of these protective devices and equipment does not conflict with standards for that specific type of equipment established by the Department of Health or DOSH. An employer may verify that voluntary use of personal protective equipment meets all regulatory requirements for workplace health and safety.
West VirginiaYes2021-June-20RecommendedMasks are recommended for individuals who have tested positive and for those at higher risk due to underlying health conditions.
WisconsinNo2021-March-31RecommendedIndividuals should wear masks according to community transmission level per CDC guidance.
WyomingNo2021-March-16RecommendedIndividuals should consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings.
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