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Sharp Health News

Frequently asked questions about face coverings

April 3, 2020

FAQs about face coverings
New guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) encourages the use of face coverings by the public when leaving the home for essential trips, in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Employees who work at supermarkets, retail stores, hair salons, restaurants and other businesses allowed to be open in San Diego County are now required to wear them, under the expanded public health order.

Here are answers to five frequently asked questions about face coverings.

  1. Public health officials previously discouraged the public from wearing masks unless they were ill or caring for an ill person. Why the change?
    There is some evidence indicating that a cloth fabric barrier can help reduce the spread of droplets from people who are infected but don't have any symptoms (asymptomatic). This new guidance is meant to help further reduce the spread of infections, along with physical distancing and bans on public gatherings.

  2. What is meant by a “face covering”?
    According to CDPH, “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 as simple as a bandana or scarf, or a factory-made or hand-sewn mask. Public health officials strongly discourage the use of hospital-grade and N95 masks, as these are needed by health care workers and are in short supply.

  3. When should people wear face coverings?
    When leaving the home on an essential trip (seeking health care, shopping, going to a restaurant or business allowed to be open) during which public contact is possible. There is no need to wear a face covering at home, unless someone in the household is at risk or showing symptoms of COVID-19.

  4. Does this mean we are free to go out as much as we'd like?
    No. This guidance should not be interpreted as a green light to leave quarantine for nonessential activities. The takeaway from Eric McDonald, medical director of San Diego County Epidemiology and Immunology, regarding the new guidelines is: “Stay in place. When you leave your place, cover your face.”

  5. What is the best way to care for face coverings and reduce the risk of viral transmission?
    The face covering should be washed with soap and hot water between uses. If you need to remove your mask during the day, be sure to put it back on with the same side touching your face. Wash hands using proper hand hygiene after touching yourmask.
Learn more about what Sharp HealthCare is doing to respond to COVID-19.

This story was updated on June 23, 2020.

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