Health

Protect Yourself and Others – Face Coverings Required in Public

Video by Autumn Endara, Suzanne Bartole

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 household contact.

“When you wear a face covering, you protect those around you,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer, “When others use a face covering, they protect you.”

The cloth facial coverings, which will be required until further notice, don’t have to be hospital grade but should cover the nose and mouth.

Homemade masks, bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters are acceptable, since these items can be washed and reused. Facial coverings don’t need to be used when people are at home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Cloth face coverings are an important safety practice for the public to follow to prevent COVID-19 droplet transmission, according to the CDC and the California Department of Public Health.

Residents are still required to stay at home as much as possible, practice social distancing of at least 6 feet, and use other public health measures, such as frequent handwashing, sanitizing protocols and staying home when sick.

Where to Wear Coverings

Face coverings must be worn in public settings, such as:

  • Waiting in line to go inside a store
  • Shopping in a store
  • Picking up food at a restaurant
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation
  • Riding in a taxi or ride service vehicle
  • Seeking health care
  • Going into facilities allowed to stay open
  • Working an essential job that interacts with the public
Face coverings will be required in public until further notice.

Face coverings will not be required:

  • At home
  • In the car alone or with members of the same household
  • When advised by a medical doctor
  • For children under 2 years old due to the risk of suffocation
  • When swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running provided there is social distancing

“People must have a face covering readily accessible to put on in populated areas to avoid droplet spread in a six feet radius when participating in any type of active recreation,” Wooten said.

Local business must:

  • Require employees, contractors, owners and volunteers to wear a face covering at work and when working off-site
  • Inform customers about wearing a face covering, including posting signs and advising those in line or in the store
  • Refuse service to anyone not wearing a face covering

Will Citations Be Issued? 

The primary goal of the face coverings is for San Diegans to protect each other by following public health orders. It would be unreasonable to expect law enforcement to patrol individual face covering adherence.

However, people who choose not to wear face coverings may be cited and denied access to businesses, transit or recreational areas.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact