Guidance on cloth face masks

DIY-mask-UMinnOn Friday, additional guidance on cloth face masks was provided by federal and local public health authorities, and King County quickly moved to identify a supplier and put in an order for cloth masks for front line, non-medical workers. The cloth face masks recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance. The county is continuing efforts to identify suppliers and obtain medical masks for healthcare workers and medical first responders.

The Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend that people wear cloth face masks when they are in public settings where they cannot maintain six (6) feet of distance from others. This recommendation is not a substitute for existing guidance to maintain six feet of physical distance from non-household members, whenever possible, and performing frequent hand hygiene with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

While the county will make cloth masks available as we receive them for employees who have contact with the public (non-medical staff), this is not a mandate that you must wear a face covering. It is considered an additional layer of protection. These cloth masks will be received in batches and distributed to departments with frontline employees as supplies arrive.

King County supports employees who may choose to wear a cloth face mask while they are working. If you voluntarily choose to wear a cloth face mask, please carefully review and follow the guidance here.

Masks are not the most important protection!

Staying apart from others is our best protection against COVID-19. The most important ways of preventing COVID-19 are frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your face, staying away from ill people, staying home and avoiding all non-essential activities and contact with others. Mask use does not replace the need to follow these important precautions to prevent illness.

Additional information on the use of cloth face masks can found from the CDC, the Washington Department of Health, and Public Health – Seattle & King County.