Bay Area counties which were the first to shut down in March because of the coronavirus outbreak issued a new directive last week regarding face masks. Starting tomorrow, everyone will have to wear some kind of covering when visiting any essential business:

Health officials across the region introduced face-covering orders on Friday, but opted to delay enforcing them until Wednesday to allow people time to procure a mask or materials to make one.

Starting Wednesday, face coverings will be required for anyone visiting an essential business, like a bank, health clinic, grocery store or pharmacy, and waiting for or riding public transit — including Muni and BART — or when entering public places like government buildings…

The orders do not require masks to be worn at home, in cars — alone or with members of their household — or when exercising or taking fresh air outdoors.

The Bay Area is not the first to put mask orders in place. Several states have already done so, with some of the orders taking effect this Monday:

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order mandating some type of face mask for everyone over the age of 2, effective beginning April 20…

Beginning April 20, Hawaii residents must wear a face covering “while waiting to enter and while at an essential business or operation,” according to the order from Gov. David Ige.

Pennsylvania, Maryland and Rhode Island instituted mask rules last weekend for employees of essential businesses. Similar rules were put in place in New York and New Jersey earlier this month.

There was some push back earlier this month from black Americans who were concerned that wearing a non-medical mask in public could result in being profiled. This tweet by an Ohio teacher from April 4 has been liked more than 124,000 times:

There are mask laws in some states which were originally designed to be used against the KKK. Generally, this situation is being viewed as an exception to those laws:

In Alabama, where an anti-mask law has been in effect for seven decades, state Attorney General Steve Marshall’s (R) office said the ban will only be subject to “common sense enforcement” during the pandemic…

There is extensive precedent for mask laws allowing exceptions on a case-by-case basis, according to David Cunningham, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis who specializes in the history of the Klan’s impact on American politics.

“In many places, such laws have been selectively enforced, against the KKK and otherwise, and so there has been at least a tacit agreement not to police violations tied to ‘legitimate’ activity. Halloween would be the most obvious example, along with Mardi Gras celebrations,” Cunningham told The Hill. “Some municipal codes have been drafted with this sort of discretion in mind, noting that masks can be allowed ‘with permission’ and for specific kinds of events.”

At this point your guess is as good as mine how long these mask rules stay in place. It probably depends on how long it take us to either develop a vaccine or reach herd immunity to the virus. Depending who you listen to, that could take a couple months or a couple of years. As the lock downs are lifted in various places, the push for wearing masks in public will likely go up not down. Like social distancing, it’s possible this is part of the new normal that could be with us for a lot longer than most of us would like.