E. Face Coverings

II. COVID-19 General FAQs

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E. Face Coverings

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; and a 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.

Yes, masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for masks will be updated as new scientific evidence becomes available.

A recent study conducted by the CDC, published 2/10/21),  found that wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask increased the effectiveness of the mask. Based on experiments that measured the filtration efficiencies of various cloth masks and a medical procedure (surgical) mask, it was estimated that the better fit achieved by combining these two mask types, specifically a cloth mask over a medical procedure mask, could reduce a wearer’s exposure by >90% for aerosols in the same size range considered to be the most important for transmitting SARS-CoV-2 (generally <10 μm).  A second study found that a double mask (cloth over surgical mask) reduce exposure to cough particles by >85%. Knotting the ear loops of a medical procedure mask where they attach to the mask’s edges and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face (knotted and tucked masks), could improve the fit of these masks and reduce the receiver’s exposure to an aerosol of simulated respiratory droplet particles by 77%. When both the source of the exposure and the person being exposed wore double masks or knotted and tucked medical procedure masks, the exposure of the person was reduced by 96%.

Double masking, with a cloth mask over a surgical mask is an easy way to dramatically reduce your risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 particles.


Read more:

Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021


To help prevent the spread of droplets containing COVID-19, all County residents and visitors shall wear face coverings in accordance with and as required by the Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings issued by CDPH, effective June 15, 2021. The Guidance can be found at: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx.

The Guidance states:
Masks are not required for fully vaccinated individuals, except in the following settings where masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status:

  • On public transit (examples: airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares) and in transportation hubs (examples: airport, bus terminal, marina, train station, seaport or other port, subway station, or any other area that provides transportation).
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings.
    - Note: This may change as updated K-12 schools guidance is forthcoming, pending updates for K-12 operational guidance form CDC.
  • Healthcare settings (including long term care facilities).
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers.
  • Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers.

Additionally, masks are required for not fully vaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (examples: retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices serving the public).
For additional information, see Face Covering Q&A at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Face-Coverings-QA.aspx.


Children under the age of 2; anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance; as well as individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition or developmental disability that prevents it.

In general, as long as you maintain a 6 feet of physical distance from others (excluding your household members), you are not required to wear a face covering. That means, you are not required to wear a face covering when:

  • At home
  • In the car alone or with members of the household
  • When swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running alone or with household member

Additonally, fully vaccinated individuals can go unmasked in areas where everyone is fully vaccinated, small gatherings- where those who are unvaccinated are members of a single household and also at low risk for severe COVID 19 disease.

All employees at Orange County essential businesses should wear a face covering while at work when interacting with the public or co-workers. See CalOSHA face cover guidelines https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Revisions-FAQ.html#faceCoverings

The most recent County Health Officer’s Orders are posted on OC Health Officer’s Orders and Recommendations.

Press Releases are available on Latest News and show previous orders.

Please review information about quarantine and isolation or call the OC Health Care Agency's Health Referral Line toll free at 1(800) 564-8448 or TTD (phone for the hearing impaired) at 1(800) 801-7100.

To report a violation or for questions about the enforcement of the Health Officer's Order, please contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department's (OCSD) dispatch team at (714) 647-7000. For those cities not under contract with OCSD, please contact your city police department's non-emergency dispatch line.

Please call the OC Health Care Agency’s OC COVID-19 Hotline at (714) 834-2000.