Aaand . . . the Coronavirus News Just Keeps Coming

On Friday, six Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley issued new orders requiring the use of face coverings when in public. The six Bay Area counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Sonoma.

The new orders, issued by the Health Officer of each of the counties, went into effect on Saturday, April 18, 2020, will not be enforced until Wednesday, April 22, 2020 to give the public and businesses an opportunity to comply with the orders, and will remain in effect indefinitely until rescinded or amended.

Face Coverings Required 

Under the orders, the public and employees of businesses working in these counties will be required to wear a “face covering” which cover the nose, mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face. N95 masks are not required, and, in fact, their purchase is discouraged, so that limited supplies are available for health care providers and first responders. Acceptable face coverings include:

  • Scarves or bandanas;
  • Neck gaiters; and
  • Homemade face coverings made from a t-shirt, sweatshirt or towel and held with rubber bands or otherwise.

Notably, masks with a one-way valve, typically, a raised plastic cylinder, square or rectangle on the front or side of the mask, are not considered to be an acceptable face covering and are not in compliance with the orders because they permit water droplets to be released.

Face Coverings Required in Most Public Places

Under the orders, face coverings are required to be worn when outside the home, including while waiting in line outside of an essential business and while inside an essential business, with the following exceptions:

  • Children two years or younger should not wear a face covering because of the risk of suffocation, and children 12 years or younger, are not required to wear a face covering when in public.
  • Face coverings should not be used by anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
  • Face coverings are recommended but not required while engaged in outdoor recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling, or running.
  • Face coverings are not required while driving alone or while in a vehicle with other members of the same family or household.
  • Face coverings are not required if a person can show that either: (i) a medical professional has advised that a face covering may pose a risk to the person for health-related reasons; or (ii) a face covering would create a risk to a person as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

Applicability of the Orders to Construction Workers

Under the orders, businesses permitted to operate must require their employees to wear a face mask while at the workplace and when performing off-site work whenever the employee, contractor, owner, or volunteer is:

  • Interacting in person with any member of the public.
  • Working in any space visited by the public.
  • Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others.
  • Working in or walking through common areas such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities.
  • In any room or enclosed area where other people (other than members fo the person’s household or residence) are present.

Permitted businesses must also take reasonable measures reminding customers and the public of the requirement to wear face coverings while inside or waiting in line to enter into the business, facility, or location such as by posting signs.

On construction projects, workers are not required to wear a face covering if alone and in a space not regularly visited by the public, but must use a face covering when coworkers are nearby, when being visited by a client or customer, and anywhere where members of the public or other coworkers are regularly present.

As a reminder, under the earlier March 31, 2020 orders, construction is considered to be an “Essential Business” but only with respect to the following types of projects and activities:

  • Projects immediately necessary to the maintenance, operation, or repair of essential infrastructure such as airports, utilities, roads and highways, and solid waste facilities.
  • Projects associated with healthcare operations, including creating or expanding healthcare operations, provided that such construction is directly related to the COVID-19 response.
  • Affordable housing that is or will be income-restricted, including multi-use or mixed use developments containing at least 10% income-restricted units;
  • Public works projects if specifically designated as an essential governmental function by the lead governmental agency;
  • Shelters and temporary housing, but not including hotels or motels;
  • Projects immediately necessary to provide critical non-commercial services to individuals experiencing homelessness, elderly persons, persons who are economically disadvantaged, and persons with special needs;
  • Construction necessary to ensure that existing construction sites are left in a safe and secure manner, but only to the extent necessary to do so;
  • Construction or repair necessary to ensure that residences and buildings containing essential businesses are safe, sanitary, or habitable to the extent such construction or repair cannot be reasonably delayed.

Copies of each of the orders can be obtained from the following links:

Stay safe out there folks.

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