Facial coverings will be ‘new normal’ as of next week in Berkeley, Bay Area

Stricter rules requiring facial coverings in nearly all situations outside the home are expected to be announced Friday in Berkeley and other Bay Area counties to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Two shoppers in gloves and masks at a recent Saturday farmers market on Center Street. Photo: Pete Rosos

Update, 6:15 p.m. Berkeley has issued its order. See the details. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday but there is a “grace period” until 8 a.m. Wednesday. The order will be in effect until further notice.

Original story: Stricter rules requiring facial coverings in nearly all situations outside the home are expected to be announced Friday in Berkeley and other Bay Area counties to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Sonoma County became the first jurisdiction in the Bay Area to require everyone to wear masks both inside — other than in their homes — and outside “when the person is unable to maintain a six-foot distance from another person at all times.” Violating that order, which went into effect Friday at 12:01 a.m., is a misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine, imprisonment or both.

In early April, Bay Area health officers issued stepped-up rules about when to wear masks. Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said, in a Thursday video briefing on YouTube, that regional public health officers will now “be moving forward with an order requiring facial coverings” in additional settings for all Bay Area residents.


Willis said the order would be issued Friday and go into effect Wednesday at noon “to allow time to prepare.” Willis said the order would apply to all public settings where people who don’t live together will be within 6 feet of each other. Children under age 6 are exempt in Marin County, he said.

Willis said this order will let the Bay Area “lift other more restrictive orders,” but did not specify what those are: “Facial covering will be [an] important part of the new normal.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced the new rules for her city Friday afternoon.

The city of Berkeley is also planning to release its new rules Friday, city spokesman Matthai Chakko confirmed. Berkeleyside will share them immediately when they become available.


“Face coverings are not a replacement for staying at home,” Chakko told Berkeleyside. “There’s still an urgency for people to do that and also, when they have to go outside, to stay 6 feet apart. This is an important additional tool as we learn more and more about COVID-19.”

The city of Fremont made a similar move Thursday, noting that essential workers must also follow the new rules. On the same day, the city of Berkeley announced it would require masks for everyone inside skilled nursing homes and long-term care facilities. As of Friday, Newsom said, 3,500 people in California senior facilities had tested positive for COVID-19.

Fremont has reportedly said it could issue $100 tickets for violations of its new order. That’s unlikely to be the case in Berkeley. Thus far, Berkeley has said its focus has been on dialogue to help people understand recent regulations and the importance of complying with them.

Officials everywhere have said face coverings are so important because COVID-19 is highly contagious and can spread even when people have no apparent symptoms: “Persons have been shown to be infectious up to 48 hours before onset of symptoms, and as many as 50% of infections seem to occur from asymptomatic persons,” according to Sonoma County. There is no vaccine for COVID-19.

“Facial coverings are meant to protect the public from the user in case the user is infected and not yet displaying symptoms,” according to the Sonoma County order, which noted that masks are not appropriate for children under 2. “Facial covering are not a substitute for social distancing.”

Health officers around the region have continued to recommend the use of cloth or fabric face coverings for most members of the public so limited supplies of N95 and other medical-grade masks can remain available for medical workers and others on the front lines.

For the rest of us, according to the Centers for Disease Control, cloth face coverings should have multiple layers of fabric, be secured with ties or ear loops, “fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face,” allow for unrestricted breathing and “be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.”

Masks can be made at home in less than 30 seconds, according to a recent article from home decor company Real Simple, which posted a how-to video last week for a “no-sew face mask using a bandana or T-shirt.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that hospitalizations related to COVID-19 infections had slowed, but added that the state, on Thursday, had seen the highest number yet for coronavirus fatalities: 95 in a single day. It’s a painful reminder, he said, that California is not out of the woods yet.

As of Friday, Berkeley had 42 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 31 people who had recovered. Since the first Berkeley case was announced March 3, eight patients have been hospitalized for care. Of those, five had gone into the ICU, as of the most recent data available from the city.

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior news editor. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.com. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.