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California health officials say face coverings could protect against COVID-19

The California Department of Health issued new guidance of face coverings but said social distancing, hand washing are still the best actions.


California’s health officials issued new guidance Wednesday on the use of cloth face coverings to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The guidance does not require anyone to wear face coverings and came with a warning that social distancing and handwashing are still the best actions in the fight against the virus.  

The California Department of Public Health and state officials do not recommend the public use N-95 or surgical masks which are needed by health care workers and first responders.  

“Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing or frequent hand washing, which we know are amongst the most effective ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, Director of the California Department of Public Health and State Health Officer. “Wearing a cloth face covering could provide some additional benefit by acting as a reminder for other people to keep their distance, and it could help reduce the spread of infectious particles from those who could be infected but don’t have symptoms.” 

The state's guidance came on the same day Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recommended that the city’s four million people wear masks when going outside amid the spreading coronavirus.  

Garcetti on Wednesday said people in the nation’s second-largest city who are performing essential tasks such as food shopping should wear homemade, non-medical face coverings, or even bandannas, as people in other countries hard-hit by the COVID-19 virus have done.  

According to the CDPH’s guidance page, a cloth face covering goes over the nose and mouth and can be secured to the head with ties or straps or wrapped around the lower face.  

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,” the guidance reads in part. “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 the other guidance on physical distancing, washing hands, and staying home when ill, according to officials.  

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly added that face coverings should not give anyone a “false sense of security if they choose to wear them” saying distancing of six feet from other people is still advised.  

State health officials want to remind Californians that the best defense against COVID-19 continues to be:  

  • Staying at home and physical distancing 
  • Washing hands frequently 
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands 
  • Avoiding being around sick people 


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View all coverage of coronavirus / COVID-19 

NEWS 8 joined forces with The San Diego Foundation to raise IMMEDIATE, EMERGENCY FUNDS for our most vulnerable neighbors in need. Here is how you can help. 

Click here to view an interactive map of the current San Diego County cases of coronavirus/COVID-19 as they break down by zip code and city. 


According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing. 

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

  • Stay home when you are sick. 

  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. 

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. 

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