Residents of Sonoma County will be required to wear facial coverings in public starting Friday to guard against spread of the coronavirus, according to an order from the county’s health officer.
The order, issued Monday, goes further than previous recommendations by health officials that people cover their faces when they leave home. Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California have recently issued similar orders.
Sonoma County’s order, from health officer Dr. Sundari Mase, states: “All persons shall wear facial coverings before they enter any indoor facility besides their residence, any enclosed open space, or while outdoors when the person is unable to maintain a six-foot distance from another person at all times.”
The requirement does not apply when a person is driving alone or with household members, unless the windows are rolled down to interact with non-household members.
The order states a violation or failure to comply is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or imprisonment. Rohish Lal, spokesperson for Sonoma County’s public health department, said the county is “hoping to avoid” requiring that level of enforcement and that “people take (the order) seriously.”
“We hope that people do comply,” Lal said. “But if we need to issue a citation, then it is enforceable.”
Facial coverings are defined as any fabric or cloth that covers the mouth and nose. The order specifies that people should not buy medical-grade masks, such as surgical or N95 masks, which should be reserved for health care workers and first responders.
It also states that facial coverings should not be placed on children under age 2 or anyone who is having trouble breathing or unable to remove the mask without help.
Businesses are allowed to refuse service to any customer not wearing a facial covering, the order states. Employers operating during shelter-in-place are instructed to make sure their workers have access to or are using their own coverings.
Sonoma County’s website says residents are not required to wear a face covering when going for a run or walk but should “bring one in case you encounter other people.” It lists places where a covering is now required as including grocery stores, laundromats, outdoor work sites, buses, drive-through/curbside pick-up situations, farmers’ markets and while pumping gas.
Officials had reported 152 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Sonoma County as of Monday, with 81 active cases, 69 patients recovered and two deaths.