Face Coverings

Protect yourself and others

The County and state require you to wear face coverings in many public settings. The coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are part of our path to reopening San Diego. See full health order (PDF)

Face coverings need to cover your nose and mouth. They can be made of cloth. You can buy them or make yourself, or even improvise from household items like scarves, T-shirts, sweatshirts and towels. Medical grade masks should be saved for healthcare workers.

State guidelines on face coverings Udated Nov. 16
CDC instructions on wearing and making face coverings

Face covering infographic


When to wear

In general, you must wear face coverings when outside your home, with some exceptions. Places you need to wear a face covering include:

  • Waiting in line to go inside a store.
  • Shopping in a store.
  • Picking up food at a restaurant.
  • Indoors in a restaurant, except while seated and eating a meal.
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation.
  • Riding in a taxi or other ride service vehicle.
  • Seeking health care.
  • Going into facilities allowed to stay open.
  • Working an essential job that interacts with the public.

When they're not required

Face coverings are not required:

  • At home.
  • In the car alone or with members of your household.
  • At work if you are in a room alone.
  • For children under 2 years old, because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running by yourself or with household members. 
    You should have a face covering ready and wear it if you come within six feet of other people.
  • When you're getting a service that involves your face that requires the mask to come off temporarily.
  • For residents with a health condition that prevents wearing a mask.
  • See state guidance for other exemptions.


Businesses must:

  • Require their employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear a face covering at the workplace and when performing work off-site.
  • Inform customers about the need to wear a face covering, including posting signs and advising those in line or in the store. Suggested flyers for posting English | Spanish



Everyone should help protect others by following health orders. We can’t expect law enforcement to make sure every person is wearing a face covering. But if you don’t wear one, you can be cited or not allowed into businesses, on transit or in other areas.


Why we're doing this

Many people who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms and could be spreading the virus to others without knowing it. A face covering blocks droplets when a person coughs, sneezes, sings or breaths. 

Countries that advised or require their citizens to wear face coverings in public have been shown to be more successful in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When compliance is high, spreading of the virus slows.


Airborne Transmission Route of COVID-19
This 3-D Simulation Shows Why Social Distancing Is So Important
Face Masks for the General Public

Watch - Face Covering Requirements