Javascript is required to view this site. Skip to main content
Text:    -   | Translate
Menu

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated September 24, 2020

FAQ: Face Coverings

Why are face coverings required?

We know that face coverings work to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we know that Salt Lake County’s face covering requirement has resulted in more people wearing face coverings when they are out in public. In short, the steps we have taken in Salt Lake County are working as we’d hoped. 

But the threat of COVID still remains, and we cannot become complacent or ease up now, just as we’re beginning to make lasting progress. Until we have a treatment proven effective or a vaccine widely available, it’s important for us all to continue taking the precautions we can, including washing hands regularly, staying isolated at home when we’re ill, social distancing, and wearing face coverings.

Who supports the face covering requirement?

Our local health care leaders and public health experts—including those at the Utah Department of Health—agree that face coverings are essential to controlling this pandemic. Business, community, and faith leaders—including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints— support the use of face coverings.

Are face coverings effective?

Yes, wearing a face covering correctly is one of the easiest ways we can help our local businesses, high-risk population, and our community as whole. At least two recent peerreviewed studies confirmed the effectiveness of face coverings reducing the COVID-19 transmission risk by 75%-82%:

  • study conducted by a team of scientists in Hong Kong found the rate of non-contact transmission dropped by as much as 75% when masks were used.
  • In another study published by the Lancet, transmission of COVID-19 without a face covering or respirator (like an N95 mask) was 17.4%, while that fell to 3.1% with a covering worn, reducing the risk by 82%. 
How do you wear a face covering correctly?

Wear your face covering comfortably snug over your nose AND mouth, with no rips or tears.

The CDC recommends the use of any face covering that prevents the spread of respiratory secretions, an N-95 or professionally made mask is not essential; you can make an effective cloth face covering from a variety of items likely around your home. The CDC has some ideas for both sewn and non-sewn face coverings from common items.

Who do face coverings help protect?

Your face covering protects others; their face covering protects you. Even if you’re not in a high risk category, someone you love or are near could be.

Face coverings are the responsible, safe thing to wear when you leave home—just like seat belts are the responsible, safe thing to wear when you are driving. Going out in public without a face covering is like driving drunk; even if you don’t hurt yourself, you’re putting other people’s lives at risk.

What situations REQUIRE face coverings?

Face coverings are required in Salt Lake County indoors or outdoors where consistent social distancing is not possible. This includes inside (or while waiting in line outside) retail and other public locations, including bars, nightclubs, and restaurants except while actively eating or drinking.

Headed out the door? Check: keys, wallet/purse, phone, and face covering!
What situations DO NOT require face coverings?

Face coverings are not required:

  • Outdoors when social distancing is easily and consistently maintained.
  • On a person with a health condition exacerbated by a face covering.
  • On children under 2 years old.
  • When wearing a face covering would prevent the performance of the essential functions of a person’s job or work.
  • In circumstances not reasonably conducive to wearing a face covering, such as while swimming*.
*It is impossible to account for every potential exception, so we ask Salt Lake County residents and visitors to use common sense and practice common decency when interpreting and applying the requirement to their public activities.
Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?

You may wear a transparent, plastic face shield in addition to your cloth face covering but a plastic face shield is not an adequate replacement for a snug, well-fitted face covering.

The CDC says, “It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings.”

Are face masks with valves recommended?

The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. However, masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole in the material, which can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can reach others.  This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others. Therefore, CDC does not recommend using masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent.

Are children required to wear a face covering?

Yes, children 2 and over should wear a face covering in public when social distancing is not easily and consistently maintained.

We understand children may frequently remove their face covering, and we are not asking for or expecting perfection. We ask parents and caregivers to do their best to protect their children and others around them by doing the best you can to keep a face covering on your children when in whatever circumstance warrants a face covering.

Do employees of nonpublic businesses need to wear face coverings?

Employees of all businesses should wear face coverings when they cannot easily and consistently maintain social distance of at least 6 feet from their coworkers.

For example, it is not necessary to wear a face covering when you are alone in your private office, but you should wear one when riding an elevator with coworkers, when visiting the break room and others may be present, etc.

Do I have to wear a specific type of face covering?

No, though face shields and masks with exhalation valves are not recommended as replacements for a cloth face covering (see questions above), as shields and valves may not adequately prevent your respiratory droplets from entering the environment and affecting others.

The CDC recommends the use of any face covering that prevents the spread of respiratory droplets; an N-95 or professionally made mask is not necessary.

You can make an effective cloth face covering from a variety of items likely around your home. The CDC has some ideas for both sewn and non-sewn face coverings from common items.

Do I have to wear a face covering if I have a breathing-related medical condition?

People with health conditions exacerbated by a face covering are not required to wear one. People with such conditions, however, are at higher risk for serious complications of COVID and should therefore limit their time away from home and around other people.

Please do not contact or visit your health care provider solely to request documentation of a breathing-related health condition.

Do I have to wear a face covering while receiving a personal service?

You do not have to wear a face covering in circumstances not reasonably conducive to wearing one, and we ask that you use common sense in interpreting the requirement and this exception.

Common sense says that receiving a personal service to the face, such as a lip wax or beard trim, is not “reasonably conducive” to wearing a face covering, but that you could wear a face covering while receiving leg waxing services or while waiting for your appointment.

Please apply similar logic across all potential personal services.

If I know I have COVID antibodies, do I still need to wear a face covering?

Yes.

People with antibodies to COVID are not necessarily immune to the disease and could still be infected. Therefore, if you receive a positive antibody test, you still need to:

  • practice good social distancing and stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your household;
  • wear a face covering when social distancing is difficult; and
  • quarantine and watch for symptoms for 14 days if you are exposed to someone with COVID

If you have a positive antibody test, you should also receive a PCR test to determine if you are actively infected with COVID and need to isolate until well.

What if I don't have or can't afford a face covering?

The CDC recommends the use of any face covering that prevents the spread of respiratory droplets; an N-95 or professionally made mask is not necessary.

You can make an effective cloth face covering from a variety of items likely around your home. The CDC has some ideas for both sewn and non-sewn face coverings from common items.

Are businesses required to enforce face coverings in their establishment?

Yes, businesses should ensure employees and patrons are wearing a face covering in their establishment.

Employees should handle the face covering requirement just like they handle other health requirements and public-decency expectations in their establishments, such as “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”

Posting signage is an easy, effective way for business owners and operators to remind customers of the requirement. Signage is available on our COVID-19 “Print Materials” page.

What is the penalty for not complying?

We will enforce the face covering requirement primarily through education.

While violation of a public health order can be charged as a class B misdemeanor, we have asked our law enforcement partners to provide a verbal reminder to people in public without a face covering.

For businesses not requiring face coverings in their establishment, violations of the requirement will be handled like violations of other health regulations: primarily with education about the requirement and its purpose.

Repeat and egregious violators could receive a formal Notice of Violation (NOV) and order to comply. Notices of Violation do not carry fines but repeatedly ignoring an NOV and the request to comply could, eventually, result in criminal and civil penalties.

Should I report a business that is not enforcing face coverings?

If you encounter a business not enforcing the face covering requirement, the first thing you should do is politely ask them to begin doing so.

If that is ineffective, you may report a noncompliant public business in Salt Lake County by calling 385-468-INFO (4636) Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, or online anytime through our public reporting form.

How long will this requirement be in effect?

The current public health order requiring face coverings will expire on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

If we reach a point when the data tell us face coverings are no longer necessary, we will rescind the order early.