Mask-Wearing Policies Added to San Diego County's Public Health Order

The public health orders for the first time set guidelines for mask-wearing in San Diego County and added several other regulations for businesses and public spaces

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Update on April 9: County officials added public transportation employees, bank employees and rideshare drivers, including Lyft and Uber, to the list of essential workers that must wear face coverings.

UPDATE ON APRIL 6: County officials said that businesses have the right to refuse service to any patron who is not wearing a face covering, although face coverings are still not mandated for the general public under the county's public health order. For more on this, click here.

Additional regulations will take effect this weekend for San Diegans in the county's effort to "change the trajectory" of the spread of COVID-19 among the community, county leaders announced Thursday.

The amendments to the public health order for the first time set guidelines for mask-wearing in San Diego County and added several other regulations for businesses and public spaces.

The order will make it mandatory for businesses that interact with the public to use cloth face coverings for their employees starting Saturday; that includes grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants -- the latter a late addition following a request from San Diego's Restaurant Association to be added, according to Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Businesses that remain open will also be mandated to set physical distancing and hygiene procedures and post the guidance at the entrance to their business by Tuesday.

Businesses across San Diego County can choose to disallow entry to people who are not wearing facial coverings, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Monday.

The general public will not be required to wear facial coverings but will be urged to do so when out in public for essential activities, according to the new order.

Medical-grade masks should not be used but homemade masks, bandanas, scarves and neck gaiters are acceptable since the items can be washed and reused.

The changes came after county leaders called April a critical month for the San Diego region in the fight against COVID-19.

"We absolutely and unequivocally believe that the month of April is the month that will determine our trajectory as a region, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Wednesday. "We believe this is the month where we find out if we end up like Italy or New York or if we find ourselves through a better pathway and a better direction."

Fletcher urged San Diegans to take "aggressive action" of what is in our control. He said utilizing face masks should not limit other public health mandates, like social distancing, staying indoors and hand washing.

"Now is the time, the voluntary compliance is over and now it is time for strict compliance throughout all communities, jurisdictions," Fletcher said.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said anyone who was found to be in violation of the orders in effect will face up to a $1,000 fine or up to 6 months in jail. He said anyone who sees a violation of a public health order should call law enforcement.

"These are orders and we are reaching a critical time in our county’s public health history," the sheriff said.

Supervisor Greg Cox urged San Diegans that see a violation at a business to first alert someone inside. If further action is necessary, a form will be available at to report those in violation.

The order was also amended to close all parking lots at public parks and recreation facilities, including beaches. It will be up to each jurisdiction to decide to shut down public parks, but those that remain open must have signs posted with a physical distancing plan and ensure that residents who utilize the public space are doing "passive activities" like hiking, biking and walking.

"Law enforcement agencies throughout the region will be out making sure that people who are in public are conducting essential activities and to keep people from being out in groups," the county said.

When announced on March 16, the orders were initially set to expire on March 31 but the county's public health order was extended indefinitely last Saturday.

The strict regulations already limited gatherings to 10 people or less, closed dine-in restaurants and ended in-person classes for all public and private educational institutions.

Also still in place was the strong recommendation that all persons 65 years or older and/or have underlying health conditions quarantine themselves at home.

San Diego County was nearing 1,000 cases in the region and California was nearing 10,000 cases. On Thursday, there were 966 positive cases and 16 deaths reported in San Diego County.

San Diego's Public Health Order

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has taken measures to protect the community against the spread of the novel coronavirus by issuing a Public Health Order. The order was modified several times in March and April 2020 to restrict gatherings, shutter the dining rooms of restaurants, and close down public areas. Some of the rules included in the San Diego County public health order are:

  • Gatherings of any size are prohibited
  • Bars and adult entertainment establishments that serve alcohol and don't serve food are ordered to close.
  • On-site dining at restaurants is not allowed, but pick-up, delivery, and drive-thru services are allowed.
  • Employees of essential businesses who come in regular contact with the public (retail stores, pharmacies, gas stations, etc.) are required to wear facial coverings.
  • Businesses have the right to refuse service to patrons who do not use facial coverings, though facial coverings are not mandatory but suggested for non-essential workers.
  • Open businesses must post sanitation/social distance protocols publicly by April 7.
  • Parking lots for public parks and recreational areas, including beaches, must close. It is up to each jurisdiction if they will close off parks or recreational areas.
  • Public or private schools and colleges are not allowed to hold classes or activities.
  • Anyone coming into San Diego County on flights connected to or originating from countries under the Level 3 Travel Advisory shall be subject to 14 days of home-quarantine.
  • The maximum penalty for violating the Public Health Order is a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail.
  • Click here for complete details of the latest Public Health Order.

Read the full text of the public health orders here.

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