RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) -- Riverside County health officials are now recommending residents cover their nose and mouth when leaving their homes for essential travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
According to a press release sent Tuesday, the face coverings do not have to be medical grade. Bandanas and fabric masks are acceptable alternatives.
While the county had previously not endorsed widespread face covering, the circumstances have changed, said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer.
"When the situation changes, the rulebook changes," Kaiser said. "We're seeing our numbers increasing even sooner than we predicted and that means our strategy must change too. Covering your face doesn't change the orders everyone must abide by to stay home as much as possible and maintain social distancing, but it's an extra layer of protection that I think we need to add."
Medical experts believe that transmission of COVID-19 occurs primarily through droplets from an infected individual. Fabrics and face coverings filter these droplets and helps mitigate the spread of the virus.
"When you wear a face covering, not only are you protecting yourself, you're protecting other people from you," said Riverside County health spokesperson Jose Arballo Jr. "Meaning, maybe you don't know that you're sick."
Face coverings should be worn anytime a person is outside of their home, even in offices of essential businesses, according to the press release.
"The numbers don't lie and we know that coronavirus is spreading and growing. However, these numbers are actual people and protecting the lives of people is all of our responsibility," said Board Chair V. Manuel Perez, Fourth District Supervisor. "That means that flattening the curve requires another layer of aggressive protection against the virus. Please take the additional steps to cover your face."
Riverside County officials aren't the only ones considering asking individuals to wear masks outside of the home. CDC guidelines could soon change for other areas of the country as well, asking more people to wear fabric masks when they are leaving the house.
"The thinking behind that is really to reduce transmission," said Dr. Sumanta Chaudhuri, Chief Medical Officer at Orange County Global Medical Center. "[The mask] may or may not have some protection does not have COVID-19, but it certainly is a good idea if the wearer has asymptomatic COVID-19."
However, Chaudhuri advised against purchasing N95 or medical grade masks, because healthcare workers desperately need them.
Riverside County health officials also reminded residents they should only leave the home for doctor appointments, grocery shopping or pharmacy visits. Frequent hand washing, social distancing and staying home are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Stay in your place, maintain your space and cover your face," said Bruce Barton, director of the Riverside County Emergency Management Department.
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