New Face Covering Requirements in Several Bay Area Counties and Cities

On Friday April 17, 2020, several Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Sonoma) and cities (Fremont and San Francisco) announced a requirement for residents to wear “Face Coverings” when out in public in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This requirement was mandated through an order by each county or city (hereinafter, the “Orders”); a few of the Orders went into effect as early as 11:59 p.m. on Friday April 17th.  All of the Orders will continue to be in effect until  extended, rescinded, superseded, or amended.

A Face Covering means a covering made of cloth, fabric, or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers only the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face.  Examples of Face Coverings include a scarf or bandana; neck gaiter; a homemade covering made from a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or towel, held on with rubber bands or otherwise; or a mask, which need not be medical-grade.  A Face Covering may be factory-made, or may be handmade and improvised from ordinary household materials.

How does this affect employers?

All Essential Businesses, as well as entities and organizations with workers engaged in Essential Infrastructure work, Minimum Basic Operations, or Essential Government Functions (except for HealthCare Operations, which are subject to their own regulation regarding specified face coverings), must:

  1. Require their employees (including contractors, owners, and volunteers) to wear a Face Covering at the workplace and when performing work off-site any time the employee is:
    1. interacting in person with any member of the public;
    2. working in any space visited by members of the public (such as reception areas, grocery store or pharmacy aisles, service counters, public restrooms, cashier and checkout areas, waiting rooms, service areas, and other spaces used to interact with the public) regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
    3. working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    4. working in or walking through common areas such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities; or
    5. in any room or enclosed area when other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present.

For clarity, a Face Covering is not required when a person is in a personal office (a single room) when others outside of the person’s household are not present as long as the public does not regularly visit the room. But, a Face Covering is required when coworkers are nearby, when being visited by a client/customer, and anywhere members of the public or other coworkers are regularly present.

B. Take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public of the requirement that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the business, facility, or location.

A sample sign to be used for notifying customers can be found at the Alameda County Public Health Department website.

The Orders provide for a grace period, meaning they will not be enforced until 8:00 a.m. Wednesday April 22nd.  Employers should not forget to continue to enforce/monitor social distancing protocols.  Should you have any questions or concerns about any of this, feel free to reach out to us.