Face Coverings Now Required for All San Diegans. Here's What to Know

"When you leave your place, cover your face"

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As of Friday, every resident in San Diego County will be required to wear a face covering while around people they don't live with. But the county's announcement last week prompted questions from residents and confusion about what exactly that means.

Here's what you need to know about the requirements that are now in effect.

Face coverings will be required every time you come within six feet of someone who is not part of your immediate household. That means, if you are running, biking or strolling through your neighborhood, you will need to put on a mask when you see another person.

Supervisor Greg Cox recommends wearing your covering around your neck and pulling it over your face when you approach someone not in your immediate household.

It’s official -- face masks are now required across San Diego County whenever residents are out in public. NBC 7’s Lauren Coronado has more on the order.

“If you’re walking by yourself and there’s no one around, its OK to lower the mask but as soon as you see someone walking towards you or someone in their front yard, even before they get within six feet, we want you to pull that face covering above your nose and mouth,” Cox said at Thursday's press briefing.

No, you will not be required to wear a face covering while surfing or while running on a secluded trail if you can ensure you won't come into contact with others, the county said. It might be best to have one on you anyway.

But masks will be required in and around restaurants and businesses -- even if you're going through a drive-thru or picking up an order for takeout -- when riding on public transportation or in a rideshare vehicle.

Why is it important to wear a face mask? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), recent studies have shown that the majority of people may be infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but don't show symptoms. That means, people walking along the street may look perfectly healthy but could be infected. Wearing something over your nose and mouth can prevent the transmission of the disease between people -- even when you don't think it's likely to occur.

A couple of Poway residents say they feel optimistic about how San Diego County is responding to the coronavirus pandemic and facial covering order.

The county said that wearing a face covering does not mean we should stop following other "stop the spread" practices, like hand washing and ensuring physical distancing.

Up until now, the only people required to wear face masks were the employees of seven essential businesses -- grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, restaurants, public transportation employees, bank employees and rideshare drivers. Starting on May 8, all employees will be required to wear face masks at their place of work if they can't ensure six feet of space between themselves and others.

Businesses are allowed to deny entry to anyone who does not have a face covering.

There are countless videos online that can help you learn to make your own cloth face mask to protect against the coronavirus, but there’s a lot more to it than you might think. We’ll walk you through how to make an easy no-sew mask and what you need to know about using a mask to stay safe.

Children under the age of two will not need to wear face coverings. People with health conditions that may prevent them from wearing a mask will also not be required to wear them, if a doctor says that it will be a detriment.

The face coverings do not need to be -- and probably should not be -- medical grade, according to CDC recommendations; those should be reserved for the health care workers who actually need them. But the covering should cover both your face and mouth. It's best to have a washable one and cloth is even better, the CDC says. Any homemade cloth mask, bandana, scarf or neck gaiter will do.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has instructions on how to make your own, even if you can't sew. You can make one with as little as a T-shirt and scissors or with a piece of cloth and rubber bands. Check out the tutorials here.

Another thing to note, you should avoid touching your face covering as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to yourself while out and about. The CDC says "be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing." Pop the face covering in the washing machine to remove any germs.

Those that are uncomfortable with practices that don't adhere to the public health order can call 2-1-1 to report the issue to the proper jurisdiction for investigation.

The consequences for those who do not comply with any part of the county's public health order could come in the form of a fine up to $1,000 or 6 months in jail.

The move to require face coverings may actually be seen as a step towards reopening San Diego County, according to County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

"We believe this is going to be a part of life in the new normal," Fletcher said at a previous press briefing. "Until such time as we have a vaccine or a widely available therapeutic drug, there are going to be parts of life that are going to change. And getting in the habit of having a face covering when you leave your house, that's going to be part of that change."

County health officials and local leaders are working towards a phased approach to easing restrictions but the reopening plan is dependant on meeting five key metrics based on the Trump Administration's "Opening Up America Again" plan and the state's "Roadmap to Opening California" plan.

On Wednesday, the San Diego County Public Health Department said four of the five criteria had been met, including a 14-day downward trend of influenza-like and coronavirus-like illnesses and a 14-day downward trend of the number of positive tests compared to the number of tests being conducted. It is still up to the state to decide when California's "stay-at-home" order can be lifted.

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