Note: Updates to the FAQs may be issued periodically, with the most recent updates reflected in blue text.
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Wearing a face covering is about helping others. By covering your face when you go out for essential reasons, you are being a good neighbor and community member.
No! 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 of at least 6 feet. The most recent Order (from June 5th) does allow stable groups of 12 or fewer people from different households, called Social Bubbles, to socialize together outside. More information about Social Bubbles can be found here.
- Homemade face covering from cloth you already have
- Neck gaiter
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has simple instructions on how to make face coverings, even without needing to sew. A face covering should cover your nose and mouth and:
- Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton t-shirts and some types of towels
- Fit snugly but comfortably against both sides of the face and under the chin.
- Be secured with ties or ear loops.
- Include multiple layers of fabric.
- Allow for breathing without difficulty.
- Be washable and dryable without damage or a change to its shape.
Try not to touch or adjust your face mask or covering while wearing it. There may be virus particles on the outside of the face covering, which can then get on your face and hands. If you do need to adjust your face mask or covering, use hand sanitizer before and after touching it.
Face shields may reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they should not take the place of a mask or cloth face covering as required by the Health Officer’s Order. A face covering helps protect other people in case the person wearing the mask is infected. A face shield helps protect the person wearing it from other people who may be infected. Combining a face covering with a face shield may be an even more effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If you choose to wear a face shield, it should extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face.
- Any mask that has a one-way valve designed for easier breathing. This type of valve is typically a raised plastic disk about the size of a quarter on the front or side of the mask. These valves can allow infectious virus particles out of the mask, putting others nearby at risk.
- A Halloween or plastic mask.
- Any mask that obscures the wearer’s eyes and/or forehead, such as a ski mask with holes for the nose or mouth or a balaclava.
- Wash your hands before putting on the face covering.
- Place the face covering securely over your nose and mouth.
- Make sure to stretch it from ear to ear.
- Avoid touching your face covering once it is on your face.
- When removing your face covering, take it off from the back of the head without touching the front of the face covering.
- Wash your hands after removing the face covering.
- Have damaged ties, straps or have stretched out.
- No longer cover the nose and mouth.
- Will not stay on the face.
- Have tears or holes in the fabric.
- Waiting in line to go inside a business.
- Inside a place of business, like a store or government building.
- Riding or waiting for public transportation.
- In a taxi or rideshare vehicle, even if you are the driver and are alone.
- Seeking healthcare.
- Outdoors and anticipating others may pass within 30 feet of you. This applies whether you are walking, running, biking, otherwise exercising, standing, or using a motorcycle, skateboard, moped or scooter.
- Working at a job where there are routinely other people or your job requires that you visit someone else’s house or living space. For more information, see the section called Questions for Businesses and Workers below.
- Preparing food or other items for sale or distribution even if you are alone while doing it.
Face coverings are not required to be worn when you are:
- At home.
- In a car alone or solely with members of your household or living unit.
- Sitting or standing with people in your Social Bubble, such as picnicking outside, and you are more than 6 feet from other groups.
- Exercising outdoors (like walking, hiking, bicycling, or running) alone or with people in your Social Bubble and you are more than 30 feet of other people.
- Eating or drinking alone or with members of your Social Bubble either inside or outside and there are no other people within 6 feet.
Yes. When you are not at home, you should always have a face covering with you, and it should be visible and readily accessible, such as hanging around your neck.
You are not required to use a face covering at home. But, if you or someone at home is sick with symptoms of COVID-19, you may all use face coverings in the home to reduce exposure of others to virus particles. You should contact your healthcare provider if you or someone in your home is sick.
If anyone who lives with a vulnerable person is engaged in frequent activities outside the home, wearing a face covering at home may reduce the risk to the vulnerable person. A full list of populations who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and should take extra precautions is available here.
- Children age 2 and under must not wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation. The State is more restrictive and requires those ages 3 to 12 to also wear a face covering.
- Anyone with a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
- Anyone who has trouble breathing or is not able to remove a face covering without assistance.
- Anyone who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication.
- Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
- Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering. The Health Officer’s Order requires a written exemption from a medical professional, based on a medical condition, health concern, or disability.
- Any worker if wearing a face covering creates a safety hazard under established health and safety guidelines. For example, a mask or face covering might create a safety hazard if it prevented you from seeing or smelling a hazard, or it risked getting caught in machinery or catching on fire.
- Anyone who is not required to wear a face covering should consider wearing a face shield. If you choose to wear a face shield, it should extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face.
Yes, you will be refused entry and/or service if you are not exempt from wearing a face covering. If you are advised by a medical professional not to wear a face covering because it poses a health risk, please be prepared to inform the employees when asked. The Health Officer’s Order requires a written exemption from a medical professional, based on a medical condition, health concern, or disability.
The face covering mandate issued by the Governor is statewide, and the Alameda County Face Covering Order may be more restrictive. Where a conflict exists between this Order and any state mandates, the most restrictive provision controls.
The Order does not have an expiration date, and the Health Officer will continually evaluate the need for face coverings. It is expected that the requirement will continue for many months to keep the infection rate as low as possible, until better prevention and treatment options are available.
General Questions for Businesses & Workers
- OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for Covid-19
- Alameda County Small and Large Construction Project Safety Protocol (Appendix B-1 and B-2)
- Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- CDC’s Interim Guidance for Business and Employers
- DEFEH Employment Information on COVID-19
- California’s COVID-19 Industry Guidance
- In any area when working with the public or in areas where customers or
- the public could be present.
- Whenever multiple employees are in an enclosed space unless they are all members of the same household.
- If a person shares a desk or individual office with coworkers on an alternating schedule. They do not need to wear one in a private office when others are not around.
- In a space where equipment such as tools, supplies, copiers, or computers are shared.
- When visiting someone else’s house or living space to perform work.
- When preparing food or other items for sale or distribution even if you are alone while doing it.
- When operating public transportation or shared transportation.
Yes, employees must wear a face covering and physically distance.
Businesses must inform customers about the need to wear a face covering, including posting signs at the entrance to the store or facility. A sample sign to be used for notifying customers can be found at the Alameda County Public Health Department website.
A business must take reasonable steps to keep people who are not wearing a face covering from entering their business. They must refuse service to anyone (other than children under 2, those with health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask, and others who may specifically be exempted under the Order) not wearing a face covering. See the section entitled “Who is exempt from wearing face coverings?” above.
No, people who are working in healthcare settings are subject to existing regulations regarding wearing specified face coverings and personal protective equipment while at work. CDC recommendations can be found here.
An employee should not be required to wear a face covering if (1) a medical professional has provided a written exemption to the face covering requirement, based on a medical condition, other health concern, or disability; or (2) if wearing a face covering while working would create a risk to the person related to their work as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
See also the section entitled “Who is exempt from wearing face coverings?” above.
Employers have the option of working with employees to identify an alternate work setting where a face covering is not required.
- Alameda County Face Covering Order
- California Face Covering Mandate
- Centers for Disease Control Face Covering website on how to make, wear, and clean a face covering
- Video on how to make a face covering by Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams
- Face covering guidance for children with special health needs
- Support for People Who Have a Hard Time Wearing Face Coverings (Masks)
- To donate unopened N-95 respirators, surgical masks, personal protective equipment, and other supplies email: email@example.com
- The role of community-wide wearing of face mask for control of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic due to SARS-CoV-2
- Moving Personal Protective Equipment into the Community: Face Shields and Containment of COVID-19