Health officials now recommend face masks when in public

Health officials in Santa Clara County are now recommending the use of face coverings when residents venture outside.

Covering your nose and mouth when in public will not fully protect you from contracting the novel coronavirus. It can help from you spreading it to others if you have already contracted it and are not yet showing symptoms.

The CDC has provided new information stating that people are contagious days before showing symptoms. It is a change of tune from early March that asymptomatic individuals were not likely to transmit the virus.

“We know that a person can spread the virus before they develop symptoms, or even if they never develop symptoms,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer and Public Health Director.

The new guidance, announced late Thursday evening, is a change from previous notions that homemade facemasks would do little to stop the spread of the virus, or worse would give people a false sense of security.

Santa Clara made the recommendation, in coordination with other Bay Area health officials and the California Department of Public Health.

Leaders were quick to plead with residents not to buy medical grade masks. There remains a critical shortage of protective supplies for health care workers. Instead, they recommended bandanas or home-sewn coverings that shield both the nose and mouth.

Masks not a substitute for staying home

Dr. Cody and other health leaders – including Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams – have warned that the new facemask guidelines do not mean that people can stop sheltering in place.

“Face coverings are not a substitute for sheltering in place, frequent handwashing, and social distancing, but they do provide an additional layer of prevention when engaging in essential activities,” Cody said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Santa Clara County has 1019 positive COVID-19 cases.