Cloth face coverings – such as a bandana, scarf or homemade cloth cover – are now recommended when leaving the house for essential activities, announced Placer County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson, to further slow the spread of COVID-19.
The new recommendation comes after increasing evidence that transmission of the virus can occur as early as three days before people develop symptoms. But health officials stress that face coverings should be used in tandem with, not in place of, other strategies.
“While we recognize the potential for face coverings to help reduce the spread of germs, we want to stress that people should be staying home first and foremost. And when you must go out for essential needs like groceries or medication, you still need to stay at least six feet away from others,” said Sisson. “We do not want people to get a false sense of security from wearing a face covering and gather in close proximity, which is not allowed. Physical distancing remains our primary tool in battling this pandemic.”
Face coverings can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 by catching respiratory droplets that can be expelled not just in coughs or sneezes but also through activities like talking or singing.
“Because people may be infected but not know it yet, the basic concept is that my face covering protects you and your face covering protects me,” Sisson said. “I also want to be clear that we are recommending the public wear face coverings like scarves or bandanas – NOT surgical masks or N95 respirators, which are in short supply and we need to reserve for our health care workers and first responders.”
Face coverings should always cover the nose and mouth. But those who wear them should also take steps to ensure that the covering is secure and will not require frequent adjustment, as touching one’s face with unwashed hands would contribute to the spread of germs. Wash hands before and after putting on, taking off or adjusting a face covering.
Cloth face coverings should be washed frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Have a bag or bin to keep cloth face coverings in until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. Discard cloth face coverings that no longer cover the nose and mouth; have stretch out or damaged ties or straps; cannot stay on the face; or have holes or tears in the fabric.
“Stay in place, maintain your space and cover your face,” Sisson said.