Wear face covering when grocery shopping, Riverside County says in coronavirus warning

A Ralphs grocery store worker wearing a mask
A Ralphs grocery store employee wears a mask as he admits shoppers into the store March 22.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

In a new recommendation, Riverside County health officials urged residents to cover their noses and mouths when out in public.

Officials made the recommendation Tuesday, covering such essential tasks as grocery shopping and medical visits.

“The face coverings do not have to be hospital grade but need to cover the nose and mouth. For example, bandanas, fabric masks and neck gaiters are acceptable. Fabric covers and bandanas can be washed and used again,” the county said in a statement.


Up to now, federal officials have urged the healthy not to wear masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice is unequivocal: Healthy people who do not work in the healthcare sector and are not taking care of an infected person at home do not need to wear masks.

“Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers,” the government agency says.

But in recent weeks, there has been more talk from experts that masks and other face coverings can help.

“When the situation changes, the rulebook changes,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer, said in a statement. “We’re seeing our numbers increasing even sooner than we predicted and that means our strategy must change too. Covering your face doesn’t change the orders everyone must abide by to stay home as much as possible and maintain social distancing, but it’s an extra layer of protection that I think we need to add.”

As coronavirus cases jumped to nearly 300 over the weekend in Riverside County, officials have announced plans to open a third drive-through testing site on Wednesday.

On Monday, the county reported 291 positive cases, a nearly 60-person increase from the previous day, records show. Virus-related deaths increased by one over the weekend, bringing the county’s total to nine.

The drive-through testing site will be stationed at Harvest Christian Fellowship church, 6115 Arlington Ave., in Riverside. In order to receive a COVID-19 test, residents must show symptoms, such as fever or a sore throat, and call (800) 945-6171 to schedule an appointment. Operators will assess if residents meet the criteria to have an appointment. Those who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus — by another person who has tested positive — may also be tested at the site, county officials said.

The Coachella Valley drive-through testing site in Indian Wells, which had been in operation since March 17, was relocated to the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio on Tuesday, county officials said. The testing site will be housed at the same location as the federal medical station, county board chair and Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said. Testing will take place in the parking lots 5 and 5A near Arabia Street, between Highway 111 and Dr. Carreon Boulevard.