San Bernardino County health officials are recommending people use face coverings when leaving home to conduct essential business such as grocery shopping, going to a medical appointment, or visiting a pharmacy. The recommendations come after the State Department of Public Health released guidance on the use of cloth face coverings on April 1, 2020.
Health officials continue to emphasize the best defense against COVID-19 is frequent hand washing, avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding being around sick people, and by physical distancing, especially by staying at home. “Surgical masks and N95 masks should not be used because they must be preserved for healthcare workers and emergency responders,” said Acting County Public Health Officer Dr. Erin Gustafson. “If you do use a face covering, make sure to practice frequent hand washing before and after touching and adjusting the covering.”
There may be a benefit to reducing asymptomatic transmission (showing no signs of symptoms) and reinforcing physical distancing from the use of face coverings. However, face coverings may increase risk if users reduce their use of strong defenses, such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing, when using face coverings.
A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, bandannas, handkerchiefs, neck gaiters, or towels.
There is limited evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.
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. If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that no longer cover the nose and mouth; have stretched out or damaged ties or straps cannot stay on the face; and have holes or tears in the fabric.
“Covering your face may help reduce the chance that asymptomatic people spread COVID-19. This is not as effective as staying home and practicing social distancing,” said Curt Hagman, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “We all need to do our part to flatten the curve, and residents should use this as one more tool to stop the spread of this disease.”
For more information about COVID-19 in San Bernardino County, visit 4newsplus-v3-1.mystagingwebsite.com or sbcovid19.com. You can also contact the County’s coronavirus public information line from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday at (909) 387-3911, or email the County at firstname.lastname@example.org.