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December 4, 2023

San Benito County announces face cover mandate to start Monday

Courtesy of San Benito County:

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, the San Benito County Health Officer is requiring residents to wear a face covering when going out into the public to perform essential activities, effective at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 27, 2020. Combined with sheltering in place, social distancing, and frequent hand hygiene, facial coverings help slow transmission of COVID-19.

These changes reflect the serious nature of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and increased understanding about how the virus spreads. We now know from recent studies that people infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms or without ever showing symptoms.

“As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we continuously reassess our policies and procedures to protect our residents. Due to continued community spread of COVID-19 across our region, we are starting mandatory facial coverings for everyone going out into the public to perform essential activities,” stated Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, San Benito County Health Officer. 

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of others who are nearby. When properly worn by the user, facial coverings have the potential to slow the spread of the virus by reducing the release of these droplets into the air. Even a small reduction in community transmission could make a major difference to the demand on the healthcare system.

“As a reminder many people can have COVID-19 and do not feel sick or have any symptoms (asymptomatic), and also people can be infectious for 48 hours before they have any symptoms of COVID-19. So an important addition to our existing measures for protection for the general public from asymptomatic infectious people, is to have all of us wear a face covering that keeps their germs to themselves, so they aren’t spreading COVID-19,” stated Dr. Fenstersheib.

The use of medical masks, such as N-95 and surgical masks, are strongly discouraged for general use. Due to the global demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), there is a severe shortage of PPE across the state. Those supplies should be reserved for health care workers and first responders.  Public Health Services asks residents to refrain from purchasing PPE for their own use and to utilize homemade face coverings instead. 

Businesses must take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind patrons about face coverings, and may not serve customers who do not observe the order. Workers do not need to wear face coverings if they are alone in a personal office but must put them on when others are present.

Residents are encouraged to continue to practice safe physical distancing when they go out to exercise or for recreation. Individuals engaged in outdoor recreation and who are able to practice physical distancing (joggers, cyclists, hikers, etc.) are not required to wear face coverings, but should move to avoid close proximity with passers-by.

The order also includes customers of public transit (including while waiting at transit stops), rideshare services, and passengers in private automobiles who are not members of the same household.

The order does not require children 12 and younger to wear face coverings or anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Children two years old or younger must not wear them due to risk of suffocation.

The California Department of Public Health has these guidelines for cloth masksface coverings:

  • Face coverings can be made out of cloth, be factory-made or hand-sewn, or improvised using bandannas, scarves, T-shirts, sweatshirts or towels. 
  • The material should cover the nose and mouth.  Ideally, face coverings should be washed after each use. Dirty masks should be placed in a dedicated laundry bag or bin. 
  • Use detergent and hot water when washing cloth masks, and dry them on a hot cycle. 
  • Be sure your mask is comfortable; you don’t want to have to keep adjusting the mask because that means touching your face. 
  • Wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before and after touching your face or face coverings. 
  • If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing it, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face.

Jurisdictions around the Central Coast and Bay Area are unified in the recognition that face coverings are a very important tool in breaking the chains of transmission. San Benito County residents have been actively following guidance and orders provided by Public Health Services. We must all redouble our efforts to abide by the safety precautions and inhibit the spread of COVID-19. 

Please continue to be vigilant about keeping a safe distance from others, washing your hands, wearing a facial covering when going out in public and staying home if you are sick.

For guides on homemade face coverings, please see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/preventgetting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.htmlor visit the San Benito County Public Health Services website for updated local information at http://hhsa.cosb.us/publichealth/.