The Wesport Board of Health on Friday issued an order requiring anyone who enters an "essential business" in town to wear a face mask or face covering to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order goes into effect on Monday, April 20 and applies to all businesses open during the state's COVID-19 state of emergency. Such businesses include but are not limited to grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, and home improvement stores, the order states.

All workers at such businesses must also wear masks or face coverings when interacting with the public — or within six feet of a co-worker — states the order as signed by Health Director Matthew J. Armendo.

The health order also applies to apartment buildings and multi-unit commercial buildings. Anyone entering a "residential or commercial building complex of more than one unit" must wear a face covering while in common areas and communal spaces, and must exercise social distancing in compliance with CDC guidelines.

Acceptable face coverings include fabric masks, scarfs, or bandanas that cover the nose or mouth. The order specifies that surgical masks and N95 respirators are not recommended because they should be reserved for health care workers.

The order will be enforced by the Board of Health. A first offense will result in a warning. A second offense comes with a $100 fine. Subsequent offenses will set a scofflaw back $250.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell recently issued a similar order.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on March 23 ordered all non-essential businesses to close to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. He issued a stay-at-home advisory asking people to limit their public forays to essential errands. On April 10, Baker advised all residents to wear a mask when in public.

Baker's mask advice was not mandatory, but local health departments are empowered to make such orders mandatory.

Baker has repeatedly noted that many carriers of the novel coronavirus may have no symptoms. Such persons can unintentionally spread the airborne virus to others. Wearing a face mask helps prevent such unintentional spread, public health officials say.

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