Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
The CDC recommends that everyone wear a face mask in public, as there is compelling evidence that doing so can slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, there is no federal mandate requiring people to do it, so that has left individual states and cities to decide if their residents should be required to wear face coverings.
To help you navigate the confusing differences between face mask mandates, we've broken down what the situation is in each state and the District of Columbia. Because both local and statewide orders are changing constantly, we will do our best to report on those changes. However, you should always defer to your city, county or state health department for specific details on mask orders where you are.
Alabama: On July 15, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide mask requirement, which is in effect until October 2.
Alaska: No statewide order requiring masks, but the state encourages people to wear them and the city of Anchorage requires them to be worn in indoor public spaces.
Arizona: Masks are only required for customers and employees at barbers and cosmetologists but only recommended for other situations. Phoenix and several other Arizona cities require people to wear face coverings in public.
California: Statewide order requires that everyone in California wear a face mask while in public spaces, both indoor and outdoor. In some parts of California, face coverings with a valve are not permitted, because they can allow exhaled air and droplets escape.
Colorado: Starting at midnight on July 17 and extending through September, everyone in the state of Colorado 10 years of age and older must wear a face mask in pubic indoor spaces.
Connecticut: On April 20, Gov. Ned Lamont required that residents wear a face mask in public areas where close contact is unavoidable. The executive order also includes ride-hailing services and public transportation.
Delaware: As of May 1, Gov. John Carney is requiring anyone in the state to wear face coverings while in public places and businesses.
District of Columbia: As of May 13, face masks are required when you are "engaging in essential and minimum basic operations of businesses, when persons are in the presence of others."
Florida: Florida's Department of Public Health encourages, but does not require, people to wear a mask in any setting where social distancing isn't possible. However, several counties and cities in the state have issued mandates for people to wear masks in those areas. Those include, but are not limited to, Orange County, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach and Seminole County.
Georgia: On July 15, Gov. Brian Kemp suspended all mask orders in the state of Georgia that individual cities, including Savannah and Atlanta, had enacted. Currently the state government is merely encouraging people to wear masks, but there is no statewide order.
Hawaii: On April 17, Gov. David Ige issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings while in (or waiting outside of) essential businesses. In early July, the mayor of Oahu issued an order for people to wear masks in any public setting, with a few exceptions.
Idaho: In Ada County, people are required to wear masks in public spaces. There is no statewide order.
Illinois: As of May 1, Illinois residents are required to wear face coverings while in public places where social distancing measures are hard to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses.
Iowa: There is no statewide order and on July 8 Gov. Kim Reynolds said that an order put in place by the mayor of Muscatine requiring people there to wear masks is invalid.
Maine: Gov. Janet Mills issued an order for anyone in Maine to wear a face mask in public back in April. In July, she signed a new executive order requiring businesses to enforce the order by denying entry for people not wearing a mask.
Massachusetts: As of May 6, Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered residents to wear face coverings while in public places where social distancing is hard to maintain.
Maryland: On April 15, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an order for Maryland residents to begin wearing face coverings in food and retail establishments and when taking public transportation. The order says this will be a requirement as long as the state of emergency is still in effect.
Michigan: As of July 10, everyone in the state must wear a face covering in any indoor or outdoor public space.
Mississippi: As of July 13, Gov. Tate Reeves issued an executive order for 13 counties requiring employees of essential and retail businesses to wear masks while working, and for the general public to wear masks at social gatherings.
Missouri: Gov. Mike Parson says that wearing a face covering is "up to the individual," though state health officials recommend that everyone do so. Several counties and cities, including Kansas City and St. Louis, have orders in place.
Montana: As of July 15, residents are required to wear masks in indoor public spaces and at outdoor gatherings of 50 or more people.
Nebraska: There is no statewide mandate for the general public, but in some cities, including Lincoln and Omaha, you are required to wear a mask in public spaces.
Nevada: On June 24, Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a mandatory order for all people in Nevada to wear masks in public spaces.
New Hampshire: Masks are only required at scheduled gatherings of 100 or more people, except when people are seated and spaced out 6 feet.
New Jersey: Jersey was one of the first states to instate a mandatory order to wear masks in public spaces. As of July 8, that includes both indoor and outdoor spaces.
New Mexico: As of May 16, all New Mexico residents are required to wear a face covering while out in public, including while exercising.
New York: As of April 15, everyone in the state is required to wear mask when outside of the home.
North Carolina: As of June 26, everyone is required to wear a face mask while in public, with a few exceptions.
North Dakota: On May 1, Gov. Doug Burgum started to reopen the state without requiring face coverings.
Ohio: As of July 23, everyone in the state must wear masks in indoor public spaces and outdoors where you cannot maintain a distance of six feet from others.
Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt openly opposes a statewide mask mandate. However, several cities in Oklahoma, including Tulsa and Oklahoma City, are considering mask orders.
Oregon: Face masks are required in all indoor public spaces and outdoors where social distancing isn't possible.
Pennsylvania: As of July 1, everyone in the state must wear a mask when they leave their home.
Rhode Island: As of July 4, Gov. Gina Raimondo extended the state's order requiring people to wear a mask in public both indoors and outdoors.
South Carolina: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control strongly encourages people to wear face coverings in public, but there is no mandate. Several cities in South Carolina have mandatory orders in place.
South Dakota: The South
Department of Health recommends that people wear face coverings, though they are optional.
Tennessee: As of July 3, mayors in the state have the authority to issue local mask requirements, but there is no statewide order.
Texas: As of July 3, all residents are ordered wear a face covering in public, though counties with 20 or fewer active cases of the coronavirus can be exempt from the order. However, many counties have opted out of the order and others aren't enforcing it.
Utah: As of July 2, masks are required in only some public areas, such as schools and state government facilities.
Vermont: As of May 1, masks are only required while riding on public transportation.
Virginia: On May 26, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that everyone over the age of 10 in Virginia is required to wear a face covering in public places such as retail establishments, restaurants, public transportation and anywhere else people congregate.
Washington: People are required to wear face coverings in public spaces, both indoors and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
West Virginia: As of July 6, everyone age 9 and older is required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible.
Wisconsin: Starting August 1 through at least September 28, everyone age 5 and older is required to wear a mask in indoor public settings. Masks are encouraged, but not required, outdoors.
Wyoming: The state recommends masks, but does not require them. Gov. Mark Gordon has echoed the recommendation, but hasn't issued a statewide order.
Watch this: What you need to know about cleaning and reusing a virus mask
Again, be sure to check with your local government for the most up-to-date guidelines. And remember -- face coverings are important but they aren't a substitute for social distancing and hand washing.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.