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Frequently Asked Questions about Cloth Face Coverings

June 23, 2020 5:25 PM
by Miranda Iglesias

Frequently Asked Questions about Cloth Face Coverings

There is a growing amount of scientific research showing that people with no or few symptoms of COVID-19 can still spread the disease and that the use of face coverings, combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing, will reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

To help limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the State of California Public Health Officials Released Guidance Requiring Californians to Wear Face Coverings in Most Settings Outside the Home. Along with the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the City of Santa Monica requires individuals to use a clean, cloth face covering anytime they will be in contact with other people who are not household members in public or private places. If you cannot maintain six feet of physical distance between yourself and others, you must wear a face covering.

If you still have questions, reach out to us at the COVID-19 hotline (310) 458-8400 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by emailing info@santamonica.gov.


Does the requirement for wearing cloth face coverings extend to shared common spaces within an apartment complex? 

A: Yes. Los Angeles County has issued guidance for multifamily residents that makes clear that all “employees, building occupants, and visitors are to practice physical distancing and use cloth face coverings while in shared common spaces and public areas of the complex if they will be in contact with others.” View the Los Angeles County Guidance

Is Santa Monica enforcing face coverings?

While the City of Santa Monica’s emergency orders are enforceable by the Santa Monica Police Department and Code Enforcement, Santa Monica’s primary focus is to gain community compliance through education. There are two areas the City is focusing resources to enforce cloth face coverings: 1) groups of more than 10 people and 2) individuals not wearing face coverings inside businesses.

If you see a gathering of more than 10 people, please email info@santamonica.gov with the approximate date and details about the gathering. For an urgent concern, such as a large party, please call non-emergency Police Dispatch at 310-458-8491.

The Emergency Operations Center oversees a code compliance team that completes checks of our Santa Monica businesses to ensure their compliance with changing public health orders. This team, which operates 7-days a week, completes targeted education and enforcement checks for all open businesses. To report a concern that a business is not in compliance with LA County’s Health Order, Code Enforcement can be reached at 310-458-4984. Violations can also be reported directly to LA County Department of Public Health at 888-700-9995(Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. -  5 p.m.) or by emailing EHMail@ph.lacounty.gov.   

Has the Federal, State, or County agencies issued face covering exempt cards? 

No, please be aware that"Face Mask Exempt" card images and flyers circulating online or presented in person in Los Angeles County and Santa Monica are NOT from a government agency and are not endorsed by the Department of Justice or any Los Angeles County department.

Are there face covering exemptions for the deaf and hard of hearing community? 

The City’s 20th Supplement on Face Covering Requirements contains exemptions from the City’s face covering requirement.  One of those exemptions is for “persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communications.” To best serve all customers, businesses are encouraged to offer reasonable accommodations to those who qualify for this exemption, such as encouraging staff shopping and outdoor pick-up or the staff/patron use of a face shield or a clear mask during essential communications. Please find additional resources to navigate face covering concerns of the deaf and hard of hearing community:   

What are the Do's and Don'ts when wearing face coverings?

How is Santa Monica educating the community about wearing face coverings?

To help gain community compliance in Santa Monica, City staff have implemented a number of educational messages throughout the COVID-19 emergency to convey the importance of wearing a cloth face covering. Below are examples of some of the methods we have used to help communicate this requirement.

Social media and email newsletters like SaMoNews (subscribe here!) continue to be important tools to share information with residents and visitors in Santa Monica. City staff also use traditional means of communication to educate the community about face covering requirements, including:

  • Park banners
  • A-frame
  • Sticker signage
  • Ground decals 
  • Digital signs

Where can I buy a face covering locally? 

Here is a list of places to buy face coverings locally. Please note that some are online only.

I've seen face covering yard signs in Santa Monica. Where can I get one?

Visit santamonica.gov/EconomicRecovery/Help for details

Why should I wear a face covering?

Covering your nose and mouth can slow the spread of COVID-19 since individuals can be contagious before the onset of symptoms. You may be contagious and do not know it. If you cover your nose and mouth, it can limit the spread of COVID-19. Another good reason to use face coverings is you touch your face less when your face is covered. Touching your face after touching something contaminated with COVID-19 increases your chances of getting sick with COVID-19. 

Am I required to wear a face covering?

All individuals in Santa Monica are required to wear protective face coverings in accordance with LA County Department of Public Health Guidelines wherever they may come in contact with or are less than six feet away from non-household members in both public and private places. This requirement includes all permitted outdoor activities, except for water activities.

If you have a medical condition and your medical provider has instructed you not to wear a face covering, these individuals are instructed to wear a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge.

Why might I cover my face now, when a face covering was not recommended before?

Ongoing COVID-19 research shows that individuals may be contagious and spread COVID-19 without their knowledge, even if they do not have symptoms. This new information suggests that a face cover may protect others from infection. Wearing a face cover may help prevent the spread of droplets that might be infectious.

When should I wear a cloth face covering?

You are required to wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth when you must be in public. Wearing a cloth face covering does not eliminate the need to physically distance yourself from non-household members and to wash your hands frequently.

The City of Santa Monica requires cloth face coverings at the following places:

  • While outdoors in public spaces and during permitted outdoor activities, except water activities
  • All employees and patrons are required to wear a cloth face covering at essential and reopened businesses in Santa Monica. Businesses can post this helpful flyer at the entrance to their businesses.
  • For essential medical visits, please wear a surgical mask or face covering.

Does my child need to wear a face covering?

It depends on the age of your child.

  • Ages 0 – 2: Do not wear a face covering.
  • Ages 2 – 8: Yes, can wear a face covering but under adult supervision to ensure that the child can breathe safely and avoid choking or suffocation.

 The State has outlined exemptions for young children, and other situations found here.

What kind of face covering should I be wearing?

Most of us can use cloth face coverings, which function as an additional tool that can protect others from possible exposure to respiratory droplets that may come from our mouth when we talk, sneeze or cough. N95’s and surgical masks should be worn for protection by healthcare staff and those workers who provide care to a person who might have COVID-19 or other communicable diseases. 

Check out our video on how to make your own face covering using materials you already have at home.

I have some protective face covering equipment, such as N95 masks. What can I do with them?

Many have asked how they can help our nurses, doctors & healthcare workers. If you want to donate/know of businesses that may be able to help with personal protective equipment like surgical masks, N95 face masks, face shields & other supplies, please email medsupply@dhs.lacounty.gov.

What do I do if I see individuals not wearing masks or face coverings in public spaces?

If you encounter someone not wearing a face covering, the City recommends you distance yourself at least six feet. While Santa Monica's face covering requirement is in alignment with Los Angeles County’s revised Safer at Home Health Officer Order and a similar order from the City of Los Angeles, Santa Monica’s focus is on education in order to gain our community’s compliance. If you see a gathering of more than 10 people, please email info@santamonica.gov with an approximate date and details about the gathering. 

The City of Santa Monica’s emergency orders are enforceable by the Santa Monica Police Department and any City Officer or employee granted authority to issue written notices. It is important to note that citations can be issued for repeat violators. 

What do I do if I see individuals not wearing masks or face coverings at businesses?

The Emergency Operations Center oversees a code compliance team that completes checks of our Santa Monica businesses to ensure their compliance with changing public health orders.  

This team that operates 7-days a week completes targeted education and enforcement checks for all open businesses. To report a concern that a business is not in compliance with LA County’s Health Order, Code Enforcement can be reached at 310-458-4984. Violations can also be reported directly to LA County Department of Public Health at 888-700-9995(M-F 8 a.m. -  5 p.m.) or by emailing EHMail@ph.lacounty.gov.   

If you encounter someone not wearing a face covering, the City recommends you distance yourself at least six feet. 

My employer is unaware of the face covering rules and it’s causing problems. What do I do?  

You can provide your employer with the official City of Santa Monica information regarding the supplemental order requiring workers and patrons to wear face coverings at essential businesses. As part of the LA County Department of Public Health Stay at Home Order, LA County also has requirements for posting a Social Distancing Protocol Form.  If your employer refuses to comply, please notify us at info@santamonica.gov or by calling Code Enforcement at (310) 458-4984.


For ongoing updates at Santa Monica’s response to COVID-19, visit santamonica.gov/coronavirus, and stay informed of future COVID-19 updates by signing up for our newsletter at santamonica.gov/newsletter.

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