The city of Santa Monica — in alignment with Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles — is now requiring people to wear masks whenever they leave their homes.
Prior to last week, people were only required to wear masks while visiting a business. The order the city issued Thursday requires a face covering while outside as well, except if you’re in the water, have trouble breathing, or have a disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering. Children under two are also exempt from the order, which remains in effect through the end of June and may be extended.
But do you have to wear a mask if you’re not close to other people? How about while you’re exercising?
The answer to both questions is yes, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.
“Put it on as soon as you step outside,” she said.
Farrell said Santa Monica and the rest of the county will move closer to reopening if residents wear face coverings and practice physical distancing in public. If you have coronavirus — whether you know it or not — wearing a mask will prevent you from infecting others, and masks also protect you from inhaling infectious droplets.
Public health officials recommend depositing your cloth mask after each use in a bin separate from the rest of your laundry and washing it before putting it back on.
“We know it can be uncomfortable, but this is a really critical measure to protect one another,” Farrell said. “As we’ve heard from public health officials across the country, we all have to get used to these protective health measures for the foreseeable future.”
She said the Santa Monica Police Department can issue citations to people without masks, but officers aim to educate people on the law before resorting to fines.
Los Angeles County has reduced its rate of infection since residents began practicing physical distancing and wearing masks, although cases continue to climb.
Public health officials said last week that every person with coronavirus is infecting an average of one other person. On Tuesday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said 9% to 11% of people tested over the last two weeks have tested positive — a drop from the 13% to 15% of people who tested positive a few weeks ago — which she attributed in part to more asymptomatic people getting tested.
Keeping the rate of infection down through masks and physical distancing will be critical as county officials plan to reopen more sectors of the economy by July 4. To move further into phase two of reopening, counties in California must demonstrate that 8% of people tested for more than one week were positive.
Ferrer said Tuesday she recognizes people are tired of the lockdown and reminded residents that they must continue to take precautions in order for the county to hit statewide metrics for reopening.
“It’s going to take all of us working together to do this quicker rather than slower,” she said. “We’re going to aim for that July 4 date … we have to do a lot of things right so we can actually get to that date and have lots of different sectors reopen.”
Santa Monica had 243 confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday, an increase of 15% over the last week. Fourteen residents have died from COVID-19, according to the county Department of Public Health.
There are 162 confirmed cases and 23 deaths at Santa Monica nursing homes.
Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab, Ocean Pointe Healthcare Center and the Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica continue to report the largest outbreaks.
Brentwood Healthcare Center has 10 confirmed cases among staff and residents. Brookdale Ocean Assisted Living, Dewey Home and Santa Monica Convalescent Center II each have one or two cases.