COVID-19 Update 9

county seal

A message from:
Board of Supervisors
Susan S. Muranishi, County Administrator

April 2, 2020

Today, several bay area county health officers, including Alameda County’s, issued guidance regarding the use of cloth face coverings by the general public. This followed guidance issued yesterday by the California Department of Public Health noting that "[t]here may be a benefit to reducing asymptomatic transmission and reinforcing physical distancing from the use of face coverings. However, face coverings may increase risk if users reduce their use of strong defenses, such as physical distancing and frequent hand washing, when using face coverings."

In light of this new guidance, if you choose to wear a cloth face covering, you will not be prohibited from wearing a covering while at work. Employees must exercise discretion and select a covering that is workplace appropriate. Public health and public safety employees should confirm with your departmental leadership whether face coverings may be appropriate for your duties and work environment.

It must be stressed that wearing a face covering is not a substitute for existing best practices and good health hygiene—the best defense against COVID-19 is to:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid being around sick people
  • Practice social distancing

And, if you choose to wear a cloth face covering, continue to practice strict hand washing before and after touching or adjusting your face covering.

Important note:

Surgical masks and N95 masks need to be preserved for health care workers and first responders who are working directly with COVID-19 positive or symptomatic individuals. This is not intended to encourage employees to rush to procure such supplies.

If you have any questions, please review the Frequently Asked Questions, below, or speak with your Agency/Department Human Resources contact.


What is a cloth face covering?
A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

How well do cloth face coverings work to prevent spread of COVID-19?
There is limited evidence to suggest that use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.

When should I wear a cloth face covering?
You may choose to wear a cloth face covering when you must be in public for essential activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. Wearing a cloth face covering does not eliminate the need to physically distance yourself from others.

How should I care for a cloth face covering?
It’s a good idea to wash your cloth face covering frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Have a bag or bin to keep cloth face coverings in until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that:

  • No longer cover the nose and mouth
  • Have stretched out or damaged ties or straps
  • Cannot stay on the face
  • Have holes or tears in the fabric