A new health order in Contra Costa County requires anyone working at or visiting an essential business, such as a grocery store or gas station, to wear face coverings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The order, effective Wednesday, April 22, also requires public transit and government workers to wear masks when they come close to others, or where the public is likely to be present.
Members of the public must mask when they:
- work at an essential business
- are inside an essential business, such as a grocery store
- visit a healthcare provider or facility
- wait in line for or ride public transportation
Businesses must take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind visitors about masking, and not serve customers who do not observe the order. Workers do not need to mask if they are alone in a personal office but must put them on when others enter.
“We now know that a significant number of people with COVID-19 lack symptoms, or become infectious before they start showing symptoms,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health officer. “That is why we all need to start wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where it’s sometimes hard to maintain physical distancing, such as standing in line at the store.”
The new order does not extend to people driving in personal vehicles alone or with members of their households. Contra Costa residents are encouraged to continue to observe safe physical distancing when they go out to exercise or for recreation.
When outside, everyone must carry masks or face coverings and use them whenever they come near six feet of others outside their own households.
People engaged in more strenuous exercise, such as running or bicycling, should stay further apart from others while breathing heavily and take steps to avoid breathing on others, such as moving to the other side of the road to avoid pedestrians and wearing a mask if possible.
The new order does not replace the county’s stay-at-home health order or the need to maintain physical distancing, wash hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes – all fundamental to reducing the spread of COVID-19.
“Stay in place, maintain your space, cover your face,” Dr. Farnitano said. “One key way the COVID-19 virus spreads is through respiratory droplets that people expel when they breathe or sneeze. By masking and observing physical distancing, we can help protect everyone in the community.”
The order does not require children 12 and younger to wear masks. Children 2 years old or younger must not wear them because of the risk of suffocation.
Face coverings can be anything made of cloth, fabric or other permeable material that covers the nose and mouth and the lower part of the face. Medical-grade masks are not required – a T-shirt or bandana works fine, Dr. Farnitano said.
Masks with one-way valves for easy breathing do not qualify as face coverings under the order because they can release respiratory droplets into the surrounding air.
Visit cchealth.org/coronavirus to read the order or for more information about COVID-19. Visit the Centers for Disease and Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html for video instructions to make and use cloth face coverings.