Farm worker in mask

After finishing a day of harvesting, about 30 men working for Fresh Harvest lined up for a training from Natividad medical residents. Everyone present was required to wear a mask. 

Effective at midnight tonight, a face-covering rule takes effect in Monterey County. The idea is that by blocking our noses and mouths when we're out in public, those of us who may be infected with Covid-19 but don't know it can help stop the virus from spreading. 

Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno's order is eight pages long and addresses a number of questions we've received from readers so far. Here's what we do know about what's required:

Where do I need to wear a mask? 

While inside an essential business or waiting in line to enter an essential business, such as a grocery store, restaurant or laundromat; while conducting business from your car window (such as picking up a takeout order); when going to the doctor, dentist, veterinarian or any other type of medical establishment; while on public transportation or in a taxi or rideshare.

Workers and volunteers in all of these settings are also required to wear face coverings while off-site or interacting with members of the public, or if they're working in a space that is open to the public, such as a doctor's office waiting room or grocery store checkout area.

You are required to wear a mask when in shared public spaces like hallways, parking areas and elevators. 

Where do I NOT need to wear a mask? 

You don't need to wear a mask at home or inside your own vehicle or in a vehicle with members of your household. If you're working in an essential business but you're not in contact with others (either coworkers or members of the public). 

Who does this rule apply to? 

Teens and adults over the age of 12; young children under age 2 should avoid wearing masks due to the risk of suffocation. 

If you have trouble breathing or a doctor has indicated there are health reasons not to wear a face covering, it is not required.

Do I have to wear a mask while I'm out running?

No. While doing outdoor recreation—things like running, bicycling, hiking—you are not required to wear a mask, but Moreno advises people to keep one with them. (And reminds you that six-foot social distancing is still required.) 

Moreno's order does add that heavy breathing can make the six-foot distance insufficient: "Running or bicycling causes people to more forcefully expel airborne particles, which makes the usual minimum six feet distance requirement less adequate. Therefore, runners and cyclists must take extra measures to avoid exposing others to airborne particles, including wearing a face covering when possible, maintaining a physical distance of greater than six feet when engaging in these activities, avoiding spitting, and avoiding running or cycling directly in front of or behind another runner or cyclist who is not in the same household."

Do I need a medical-grade mask, or will a bandana work? 

You do not need a store-bought mask. In fact, Moreno specifically recommends against members of the general public using personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95s, because of the limited supply available for medical workers. What's important is that it covers the nose and mouth.

Per the order: "Examples of face coverings include a scarf or bandana; a neck gaiter; a homemade covering made from a T-shirt, sweatshirt or towel, held on with rubber bands or otherwise; or a mask, which need not be medical-grade. A face covering may be factory-made, or may be handmade and improvised from ordinary household materials."

The Weekly published this how-to guide for making masks.

Masks with one-way valves that are designed to help you exhale—they typically are a raised plastic cylinder about the size of a quarter on the front or side of the mask—do not comply with the order, because they allow for the release of droplets into the air.

If I don't follow the order, what happens?

As with shelter-in-place, the health officer's order is enforceable by law enforcement agencies. Failure to comply is a public nuisance.  

Who can I talk to or ask for clarification about this order? 

Call the Monterey County Health Department at 831-755-4521.

You can read the full order here: 

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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