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California

Workers at grocery stores, others must wear face coverings, San Diego County orders

Shoppers line up Thursday outside a Costco in Victorville.
Shoppers line up Thursday outside a Costco in Victorville, waiting to go inside amid social distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

San Diego County is requiring employees who regularly interact with the public to wear face coverings, the latest push across California to have people cover their faces as another measure to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Los Angeles, Riverside County and the Bay Area have urged residents to wear some type of face covering when doing essential business, but San Diego County is going further.

Under the San Diego County order, effective midnight Saturday, all employees who may have contact with the public in any grocery store, pharmacy or drug store, convenience store or gas station shall wear a cloth face covering as described in the California Department of Public Health guidance for face coverings.

California officials said face coverings can prevent people from becoming infected with the new coronavirus or spreading it to others, but they stressed it should not be a substitute for physical distancing, hand washing and other measures.

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“Face coverings could provide some additional protection against COVID-19, but Californians should not have a false sense of security if they choose to wear them. Make sure you’re also staying six feet away from other people if you have to leave your home to get groceries or prescriptions,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a statement.

State officials have said people should not use medical and surgical masks, which are desperately needed by medical personnel.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said healthy people do not need a mask if they are not working in healthcare or caring for an infected person. But in recent days, the CDC has been weighing whether to modify its recommendations and endorse the use of homemade masks.

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At a Wednesday afternoon news briefing, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said everyone performing essential tasks such as shopping for food should wear homemade, nonmedical face coverings, or even bandannas, as people in other countries have done.

Riverside County health officials urged residents Tuesday 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.

Pasadena spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said the city hasn’t issued similar guidance because it needs to reserve essential personal protective equipment for hospital workers.

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“If the supplies become more readily available, or if there is more of a state [or] L.A. County directive, we will definitely evaluate at a local level,” she said.

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Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, cautioned the public against using N95 or surgical masks already in short supply for healthcare providers. But she said people can use a bandanna or piece of fabric to cover their nose and mouth when going to the grocery store or otherwise out in public.

“Wearing a mask is not a shield,” she said, adding that it does not replace frequent hand washing and physical distancing efforts.


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