April 17, 6:18 p.m.
This week, a growing number of Bay Area counties announced orders requiring residents and workers to wear face coverings while in essential businesses like grocery stores and medical offices, and on public transit, as part of an increasingly aggressive set of local measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
San Francisco, Alameda, Marin and Contra Costa counties all announced face-mask requirements on Friday, and will begin enforcing the orders on Wednesday, April 22. San Mateo officials indicated they will soon follow suit. Sonoma County, which announced its order on Monday, began enforcement on Friday. Los Angeles County also began requiring face coverings this week.
Under the county orders, face coverings include any fabric that fully covers the nose and mouth and fits securely, be that a bandanna, scarf, neck gaiter or homemade cotton mask. Masks are generally not required while exercising or traveling in a car. And, in most counties, children 12 and under are excluded from having to wear them.
Officials are also encouraging residents to avoid purchasing N95s or surgical masks, which are in short supply and should be reserved for frontline health care workers.
The move comes amid a growing body of scientific research that suggests covering your face with fabric is an effective tool in helping to stop the spread of the virus, which is now understood to be highly contagious days before any symptoms appear, and for people who remain asymptomatic.
And on Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested the possibility of a statewide face mask order that would require all Californians to cover their faces in public areas. During his daily briefing, Newsom — who was not wearing a face mask himself — said he was "encouraged by work being done at the local level and all throughout the state of California."
But only until recently have officials fully gotten behind the push to use masks.
After a prolonged of debate and lots of wavering, the state of California and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early April released new guidelines suggesting that the public should wear some kind of face covering when they leave their houses to conduct essential jobs or tasks.