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San Mateo County latest to order masks for health workers between late fall, spring

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SAN MATEO COUNTY – Healthcare workers in San Mateo County will be required to wear masks between November and April, amid concerns about the increased spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, flu and RSV.

Health Officer Dr. Kismet Baldwin-Santana on Wednesday issued an order requiring all paid and unpaid personnel at healthcare facilities in the county to mask in patient care areas during those months, which have been deemed the "Designated Winter Respiratory Virus Period."

The order does not apply to patients, visitors and individuals with health conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a mask.

"Well fitted masks worn by health care personnel reduce both the risk of infection for these workers and the risk of transmitting respiratory viruses to patients and residents," Baldwin-Santana said. "Masks are essential in patient care areas when seasonal risk of exposure to one or multiple viruses is at its highest."

In the announcement, health officials cited data showing higher rates of COVID-19, influenza, RSV and other respiratory viruses during that timeframe.

"This seasonal increase in circulation of multiple respiratory viruses presents a particular risk – including severe disease and death – to infants, older adults and people with impaired immune systems," officials said in a statement.

Under the order, workers must wear surgical masks or KN95, KF94 or N95 respirator. Cloth masks or face coverings such as scarves, ski masks or bandanas do not qualify as a face mask.

Facilities covered by the order include hospitals, dialysis clinics, infusion centers, skilled nursing facilities and long-term care facilities where nursing care is provided. Within facilities, the order does not apply in administrative offices, staff break areas, cafeterias or gift shops.

San Mateo County's order comes one day after health officials in Sonoma and Contra Costa counties implemented similar mask orders for healthcare workers.

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