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How to make, wear and clean face masks: A guide to Sonoma County's face coverings order

Sonoma County residents must cover their faces when they leave their homes starting Friday, according to an order issued by Dr. Sundari Mase, the county's health officer.

Residents will be required to wear face coverings when they enter any building other than their home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Those caught without a face mask could face misdemeanor charges, which includes a fine.

Here's what you need to know about the order, as well as how to make, wear and clean your face masks.

Why do I have to wear a face covering after being told it wasn't necessary for months?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the County of Sonoma changed their stance on face coverings because many people who carry the coronavirus are asymptomatic. “You're not protecting yourself from coronavirus," Mase said during a live Facebook video briefing. "What you're doing is ensuring that if you had coronavirus but you are asymptomatic, you're not giving it to other people.”

When am I required to wear a face covering, and are there any exceptions?

Residents should cover their faces in grocery stores, at gas stations and in all other buildings, according to the order. If you're going for a run or walk in your neighborhood, you only need to wear a face covering if you cannot remain at least 6 feet from others. Residents also aren't required to wear face masks while driving, unless they roll down their windows to interact with someone such as a police officer or food service worker.

Children who are under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing should not wear a face covering.

What kind of face covering should I wear?

If you already own N95 or surgical masks, you may wear them, but the order states that people should not purchase them because health care workers are in such short supply. Face coverings can be made from scarfs, bandannas, T-shirts or any other fabric. They should include several layers of fabric, fit snugly, be secured with ties or ear loops and be washed frequently, according to the CDC.

Click here for the CDC's tutorials on how to make sew and no-sew masks. Here is a list of local brands that are selling cloth masks.

Using a vacuum filter to make a covering isn't recommended because the materials inside the filter can be harmful. Many filters contain fibers that are dangerous to breathe, according to an article recently published in the New York Times.

Some filters also contain fiberglass, which isn't healthy to breathe either.

"They are in no way designed or intended to protect humans from bacteria, viruses or other pathogens," Shop-Vac Corporation wrote about its filters in a statement published on its website. "Second, direct contact or coverage of the human mouth or nose with the filter materials are strictly forbidden for any purpose."

What do I need to know about putting on and taking off my face covering?

The covering should cover your nose and mouth. Wash your hands before and after putting it on or removing it, according to the CDC. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth while wearing the face covering.

How often should they be cleaned?

Single-use masks should be thrown in the trash after they have been used. Fabric face coverings, such as scarves and bandannas, should be washed after every use or at least once a day in a washing machine, according to the Sonoma County order and the CDC.

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