face covering
Beginning May 1, all San Diego County residents will be required to wear cloth face coverings in public when within 6 feet of another person who is not a member of the same household. Photo courtesy of County News Service.

Starting Friday and until further notice, cloth face coverings are required for San Diego County when residents go out in public.

The county’s health order is aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

“When you wear a face covering, you protect those around you,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “When others use a face covering, they protect you.”

But must they be worn all the time? And where? Are there any exceptions?

According to the County of San Diego, cloth face coverings must be worn in public settings such as when waiting in line to go inside a store, while shopping in a store, picking up take-out orders, waiting for and riding public transportation, riding in a taxi or ride share vehicle, seeking health care, going to facilities that are allowed to stay open, and when working at an essential job that interacts with the public.

People do not have to wear face coverings when they’re at home, in the car alone or with members of the same household, when advised by a medical doctor, or when they swim, walk, hike, bike or run – providing they are social distancing.

Children younger than 2-years-old are not required to wear face coverings due to the risk of suffocation.

So, what qualifies as a cloth face covering? According to the county, the material doesn’t have to be hospital grade, but the mouth and nose have to be covered. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say cloth face coverings should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Some examples of acceptable face coverings are purchased or homemade masks, as well as bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters since they can be washed and reused. Face coverings need to be cleaned after use.

According to the county, those who do not comply with the requirement may be cited and denied access to businesses, transit or recreational areas.

— Staff report