Newsletter: Should I wear a mask or cover my face in public?

There is no federal guidance on masks yet, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is now asking Los Angeles residents to wear face masks in public places.
There is no federal guidance on masks yet, but Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is now asking Los Angeles residents to keep faces covered in public.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, April 3. I’m Laura J. Nelson, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Should I be wearing a mask right now? The thought has probably crossed your mind at least once — or, if you’re like me, every time you leave the house.

First of all, stay home. And yes, cover your nose and mouth.

White House officials said on Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would soon issue new mask guidelines, softening an earlier anti-mask stance. That’s a shift from what we’ve heard until now: that masks are only necessary for people who are sick or are caring for someone who is.


Guidance from state and local leaders has also changed. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told residents this week that wearing a face mask could help; people who are infected with COVID-19 but have no symptoms can become “super spreaders,” unwittingly infecting dozens of others.

Experts caution that wearing a mask should supplement, not replace, the other stuff you’re doing to stay healthy: washing your hands thoroughly, staying six feet away from other people, and staying home unless you absolutely have to go out.

Medical-grade and surgical masks should be reserved for doctors, nurses and first responders who need to protect themselves from sick people, officials said. But they say a homemade mask, a scarf or a bandanna works fine for protecting yourself from others.

“There isn’t a single person in the general public who needs a N95 mask,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Please, please, please, don’t go look for an N95 mask. They’re in short supply. We have to make sure that our healthcare workers are able to access them.”

[Read the story: “Coronavirus could leave U.S. with a lasting imprint: Masks as normal part of life”]

If you don’t have a mask at home, here’s an easy guide on how to make one. Don’t worry if you don’t have a needle — for one version, you only need a scarf and two rubber bands.


As Garcetti put it: “We want you to keep your respiratory droplets to yourself.” (Or, since we could all use a laugh right now, the satirical publication the Onion covered the news like this: “Los Angeles Mayor Urges Residents To Wear Face Masks, Lose 15 Pounds, Maybe Go Brunette.”)

Speaking of guides, we’ve rounded up some tips that will help your time at home pass faster and more pleasantly.

Here’s how to:

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


She clawed her way up from poverty. The pandemic could take everything away. Raquel Lezama immigrated from Mexico at 17 and worked her way up from a garment factory to a $17.76-an-hour job at Mr. C Beverly Hills, a luxury hotel catering to Saudi princes, Japanese industrialists and European models. She lost her job on March 13. Now the rent is due. Los Angeles Times

A tale of two cities: Wealthier, whiter areas of Los Angeles have more confirmed cases of coronavirus — but that doesn’t necessarily mean the infection rates there are higher. Los Angeles Times


Speaking of which, here’s a map of all the confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles by neighborhood. Crosstown L.A.

The hottest free agent in L.A. is a 69-year-old waitress from Nate ’n Al’s. Offers have been rolling in from rival delis since the beloved Beverly Hills institution closed on Sunday. Los Angeles Times


A leaked Border Patrol memo tells agents to send migrants back immediately, ignoring asylum law. ProPublica

California’s Supreme Court won’t hear a case over a state law that limits police collaboration with federal immigration agents. Los Angeles Times


With layoffs soaring nationwide, a record 10 million Americans have applied for jobless benefits in just the last two weeks, raising the specter of an economic crisis so extreme it could result in another Great Depression. Los Angeles Times

Abortion fight: Six Republican-led states have severely restricted abortion, saying the changes will preserve hospital capacity and personal protective equipment during the pandemic. Abortion rights supporters say the states are exploiting a crisis and violating Supreme Court rulings, including Roe vs. Wade. Los Angeles Times

Campaigning in the era of social distancing: Door knocking is out. Rallies too. Political operatives are scrambling to adapt to the novel coronavirus. Los Angeles Times



What would Liz Lemon and Selina Meyer do? Three dozen television writers describe how their famous comedy characters would behave in a coronavirus episode. (Niles Crane: “Last night at virtual wine club, I assayed a ripe Bordeaux held more promise than the loose laces on a beer-hall barmaid’s peasant blouse.”) Vulture

Submit your haiku / RE: the coronavirus / to this museum. Sound artist Alan Nakagawa is calling on you to write haikus about your pandemic experience for a collage he will release in collaboration with the Orange County Museum of Art on April 23. Los Angeles Times

Relief for local artists: The J. Paul Getty Trust has announced a $10-million COVID-19 relief fund for small and midsize arts organizations in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 71. San Diego: sunny, 68. San Francisco: partly cloudy and windy, 58. San Jose: partly cloudy, 66. Fresno: sunny, 71. Sacramento: sunny, 69. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Cathei M Jones:

Over 40 years ago, on a first-time trip to visit relatives in the San Bernardino area of California, we stopped at a diner and ordered salads. The lettuce was amazing, and I remember saying: “It tastes like sugar on snow” — a New Hampshire treat of maple syrup poured on newly fallen snow. This was my only experience to express what the just-picked lettuce from the Valley tasted like. I can still recall that taste!

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.