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Facial Coverings in Santa Clara County

The County of Santa Clara's Public Health Department is urging the community to wear face coverings when in public. This action will help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community and reduce the number of people infected

We know that people may be infected with the novel coronavirus but have no symptoms. Wearing a face covering can help to reduce the chance that those with asymptomatic infection will spread the infection to others. If everyone wears face coverings in public, we can reduce the spread of infection. 

Critical Guidance on Facial Coverings

All individuals are strongly urged to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering, such as a bandana, scarf, towel, or other piece of cloth or fabric, when leaving home.  Face coverings are particularly critical for activities such as doctor appointments, grocery shopping, pharmacy visits, and riding on public transit, when being in the vicinity of people outside of one's household is unavoidable.​ The Role of Face Coverings

New information about that the spread of COVID-19 by people who are not showing symptoms demonstrates the need for cloth face coverings, which, when combined with physical distancing and hand washing, may prevent the spread of the virus to others when going outside for essential activities. Cloth face coverings must cover the nose and mouth. Covering your face is about helping others. By covering your face when you go out for essential reasons, you are protecting vulnerable community members. Face Coverings and the Order to Shelter in Place Covering your face does not change the shelter in place order, which requires people to stay home as much as possible and maintain social/physical distancing.  Sheltering in place has slowed the spread of the virus in our community, saving lives. Strictly following the order to shelter in place remains critical and is enforceable. Covering your face helps you to protect others if you might have an asymptomatic infection. Face Coverings and Social Distancing Cloth face coverings must be combined with maintaining social/physical distancing and hand washing.  Wearing a face covering does not mean that people can come in closer contact with one another as face coverings may reduce the spread of the virus, but they do not completely stop the spread. When You Should Wear a Face Covering Face coverings are strongly urged to be worn in public and in interaction with others, including:

  • While inside or waiting in line to enter an essential businesses, like a grocery store or pharmacy

  • When seeking health care

  • When waiting for or riding transit

  • When entering facilities allowed to operate under the shelter-in-place order, like government buildings​

When a Face Covering is Not Needed Face coverings are not required to be worn when:

  • At home.

  • In your car alone or solely with members of your household.

  • Exercising outdoors, like walking, hiking, bicycling, or running.  However, people are recommended to have a face covering with them and readily accessible when exercising, even if they're not wearing it at that moment.​

Who Should Not Wear a Face Covering Face coverings are not necessarily recommended for:

  • Children 6 years old or younger.

  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering.

  • Any worker to the extent wearing a face covering creates a safety hazard at work under established health and safety guidelines.​

Face Covering Information for Businesses and Transportation

  • Generally, essential businesses are urged to ensure that their employees wear a face covering in any area where others may be present, even if there are no customers or members of the public present at the time.  This is to avoid the spreading of respiratory droplets in areas where others may be exposed at some point. 

  • Essential businesses should inform customers about the need to wear a face covering, including posting signs at the entrance to the store or facility.

  • All workers and volunteers at essential businesses, operating public transportation, or operating other types of shared transportation are encouraged to wear a face covering when at work in most settings.

  • Workers doing minimum basic operations, like security or payroll, essential infrastructure work, or government functions should wear a face covering when others are nearby or when they are in areas that the public regularly visits.​

Making Your Own Face Covering There are several options for face coverings, as long as they cover the nose and mouth. Face coverings can be made of a variety of cloth materials, such as bandanas, scarves, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels. A face covering can be made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, but it should not have holes around the nose or mouth. The CDC has provided simple instructions on how to make your own face covering.

New research is indicating that adding a nylon stocking layer could boost protection from cloth masks. Even the 3M surgical mask performed better with stockings in their study: Testing showed that it went from blocking out 75% of small particles to 90% with the addition of a pantyhose overlayer. By comparison, an N95 respirator, which is designed to create a tight seal around the face, blocks out at least 95% of small particles when worn properly.

Cleaning Your Face Covering Face coverings should be washed frequently. Ideally, wash them after each use and have a dedicated laundry bag or bin. Always wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before and after touching your face or face coverings. The CDC also has easy instruction on how to wear and clean your face covering. Save Masks for Health Care Workers​ N-95 and surgical masks are in short supply, and need to be conserved for health workers on the frontlines. We are managing our supply levels closely and ensuring that  health workers and first responders have  medical-grade personal protective equipment that is aligned with the latest evidence-based science, and appropriate for their work duties. If you are currently using a medical mask, keep using it as long as possible – until it becomes dirty or damaged – due to the limited supply. Why Is This Face Covering Guidance Rather Than An Order? Jurisdictions in the Bay Area are unified in the recognition that face coverings are a very important tool in breaking the chains of transmission. Some jurisdictions may use a legal Health Officer Order while others may use guidance or recommendations to achieve the same goals. Health Officer orders are legally enforceable and local law enforcement are charged with enforcement of most of the orders.  The County of Santa Clara is mindful that enforcement resources across the county are limited and whenever possible see if we can change collective action and behavior change.  Our community has been active in following past guidance provided by the Health Officer and the Public Health Department and we anticipate significant voluntary compliance with this recommendation. ​


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