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Why, Where, and How to Wear Face Masks in Public

Updated: May 19, 2020

From Councilwoman Suzie Price’s Office

With COVID-19 continuing and we learn more information on its spread, many people are choosing to wear face coverings. Although the City is not requiring face coverings outdoors in public, the City is requiring shoppers to wear face masks in stores. Also, the CDC Now Recommends Face Masks.

In light of this, our Long Beach Health and Human Services Department released guidance on the CDC recommendation for individuals wearing face coverings to protect against COVID-19 when leaving their homes to participate in essential activities.

Why wear a face cover?

Recent information has indicated that covering your nose and mouth can slow the spread of COVID-19 because:

  • Individuals can be contagious before the onset of symptoms. You may be contagious and do not know it. If you have covered your nose and mouth, it can limit the spread of COVID-19.

  • We touch our faceless when our face is covered. Touching your face after touching something contaminated with COVID-19 increases your chances of getting sick with COVID-19.

What is a cloth face covering?

A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.

How well do cloth face coverings work to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

There is limited evidence to suggest that the use of cloth face coverings by the public during a pandemic could help reduce disease transmission. Their primary role is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes, including someone who has COVID-19 but feels well. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and washing hands and staying home when ill, but they may be helpful when combined with these primary interventions.

Why is this guidance on face-covering coming out now?

We are learning that individuals may be contagious and spread COVID-19 without their knowledge, even if they do not have symptoms. This new information suggests that a face cover may protect others from infection. Wearing a face cover may help prevent the spread of droplets that might be infectious.

When should I wear a cloth face covering?

You may choose to wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth when you must be in public for essential activities, such as shopping at the grocery store. Wearing a cloth face-covering does not eliminate the need to physically distance yourself from others and to wash your hands frequently.

What are my face covering options?

Acceptable, reusable face-covering options for the general public include:

  • Bandana

  • Neck gaiter

  • Homemade face covering

  • Scarf

  • Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton t-shirts and some types of towels

Can I use an N95 respirator or surgical mask instead?

Purchasing a respirator or face mask intended for the healthcare setting (including N95 respirators and surgical masks) is strongly discouraged. Medical respirators and face masks are worn for protection by healthcare staff and those workers who provide care to a person who might have COVID-19. In contrast, the face-covering recommended for the general public is intended to prevent COVID-19 transmission to others by someone who might not know they are infected. Since the intent of the face cover is to primarily protect others rather than the person wearing the cover, a medical face mask is not necessary. Medical respirators and face masks are in short supply and will be increasingly needed to safely provide care for persons with COVID-19, it is critical that these medical items not be used outside of the healthcare setting.

Is a face cover required?

No. Wearing a face cover is not required when in public. However, it is an additional tool that individuals can use to help slow the spread of COVID-19 but does not replace other social distancing requirements.

How should I care for a cloth face covering?

Before using your face covering for the first time, it's a good idea to wash it, and to wash your cloth face-covering frequently after that - ideally after each use, or at least daily. Have a bag or bin to store cloth face coverings until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that:

  • No longer cover the nose and mouth

  • Have stretched out or damaged ties or straps

  • Cannot stay on the face

  • Have holes or tears in the fabric

Please take this guidance into consideration whenever you have an essential activity that you must leave your home for, and continue social distancing in all that you do. If we all follow these directions and guidelines we can protect others and ourselves.

I realize things are changing rapidly and new information and updates are coming out all the time. But, I want to assure you that my office and my team are at your service and will continue to provide any and all assistance we can. Please reach out to our office any time as our focus will continue to be providing effective information and responsive assistance for any request.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact my office any time at (562) 570-6300 or by email at


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