San Mateo County Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow has issued a new order requiring members of the public and workers at essential businesses to wear face coverings outside the home for certain activities and in places of business.
The order will take effect this weekend but will not be enforced until 8 a.m. Wednesday, April 22, 2020, and will remain in effect until it is amended or superseded by the health officer. The order is also set to take effect in the other Bay Area counties.
According to the order, coverings can be factory-made or improvised from ordinary household materials and can be any type of cloth, fabric or other soft material that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face. Scarves, bandanas, neck gaiters, homemade coverings made from T-shirt material or other fabric and held with rubber bands are appropriate. Purchased masks may also be used but should not be medical grade, such as N95 respirators, which are in short supply and prioritized for health care workers.
The order requires members of the public to wear face coverings when they are inside or in line to enter essential businesses such as grocery stores and laundromats, when they are in hospitals, clinics, COVID-19 testing locations, dentists and facilities providing veterinary care, and when they are waiting for or riding on public transportation, including ride shares, Caltrain and BART.
Drivers or operators of any public transportation, private car service, or ride-hailing vehicle to wear a face covering while driving regardless of whether a member of the public is present due to the need to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets in the vehicle at all times. The order does not require a face covering while driving alone or with members of the same family or household in a vehicle not used commercially.
Wearing a face covering is recommended but not required for outdoor recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling or running though social distancing requirements still hold and it’s recommended to carry face coverings at all times. Children under 2 should not wear the masks because of the risk of suffocation and any child under 12 is not required, according to the order.
With exceptions for medical conditions and workplace safety guidelines, the order notes that failure to comply with any of its provisions constitutes an imminent threat and immediate menace to public health, constitutes a public nuisance, and is punishable by fine, imprisonment or both, according to the order.
There are 797 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in San Mateo County and 28 deaths. County Manager Mike Callagy reported Friday that Verily, the testing company operating a site at the Event Center, changed the criteria so first responders like ambulance drivers, police officers and firefighters can get tested without showing symptoms.