Monterey County issues mandatory face covering order for residents

Requirement goes into effect Thursday

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Monterey County residents will be required to wear a face covering when going out into the public to perform essential activities, effective Thursday, April 30. (Metro Photo)

MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County is requiring residents to wear a face covering when going out into the public to perform essential activities, effective Thursday, April 30, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we are continuously reassessing our policies and procedures to protect Monterey County residents,” said Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County health officer. “Due to continued community spread of COVID-19 across our region, I have issued a new Order requiring facial coverings for everyone going out into the public to perform essential activities.”

Combined with sheltering in place, social distancing and frequent hand hygiene, facial coverings are shown to help slow transmission of the virus, Moreno said.

Recent studies have shown that people infected with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms or without ever showing symptoms.

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. Facial coverings have the potential to slow the spread of the virus by reducing the release of these droplets into the air.

Moreno said even a small reduction in community transmission could make a major difference to the demand on the healthcare system.

“Many people can have COVID-19 and do not feel sick or have any symptoms (asymptomatic), in addition people can be infectious for 48 hours before they have any symptoms of COVID-19,” he said. “To further protect the general public from asymptomatic infectious people, the requirement for all of us to wear a face covering will help keep our germs to ourselves, so we aren’t spreading COVID-19 to others.”

The use of medical masks, such as N-95 respirators and surgical masks, are strongly discouraged for general use due to a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) across the state. Those supplies should be reserved for health care workers and first responders, Moreno said.

Monterey County Health Department 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.

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.

Children who are 12 years old and younger are not required to wear face coverings.

“We appreciate the sacrifices that Monterey County residents have made to stop the spread of the virus,” said Elsa Jimenez, director of health services for Monterey County. “By following guidance and orders provided by Monterey County Health Officer, residents have made a difference in the spread of COVID-19 and saved lives.

“We must all intensify our efforts to abide by the safety precautions and inhibit the spread of COVID-19,” Jimenez continued. “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.”