• Coronavirus

Health Officer Guidance on Surgical Masking for Healthcare Workers and First Responders

Published:  April 6, 2020 at 8:00 PM

The Health Officer recommends that health care workers, first responders, and staff at facilities providing patient care wear surgical masks while on duty and engaging in activities that involve close proximity to the general public, co-workers, and patients. The Health Officer recommends such masks be provided based on any internal policies of the health care worker/first responder’s employer. “Health care workers” includes those who deliver patient care and services either directly as doctors and nurses or indirectly as aids, helpers, laboratory technicians, and all non-clinical staff who interface with the public, co-workers, or clinical staff in a medical setting.  “First responders” includes persons who provide 24/7 emergency response, first aid care, or other medically related assistance either in the course of the person’s occupational duties or as a volunteer, such as peace officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, rescue workers, certain social workers, and certain animal control officers. 

Surgical masks do not need to be changed on a daily basis. They can be used for up to one week, unless soiled, torn, unable to cover mouth/nose, or otherwise compromised. 

Staff at residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, and other congregate living facilities for adults or minors that do not provide medical care should follow the guidance for face coverings for the general public. 

Health Officer Guidance on Face Coverings for General Public in All Age Groups can be found here: https://socoemergency.org/health-officer-guidance-on-face-coverings-for-general-public-in-all-age-groups/

This guidance applies to use of masks in circumstances in which full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is ­not required­. It is not intended to replace any existing standards or guidance for when or how PPE is to be used.

Information on the spread of COVID19 suggests a need to change best practices guidance on the use of surgical masks by frontline healthcare workers and first responders. There may be a benefit to the public health, as well as to the health of their patients and co-workers, if these workers wear a mask while on duty and engaging in activities which involve close proximity to other individuals. The Health Officer understands there may be resource limitations in implementing this guidance. The Health Officer nonetheless recommends that these critical workers be equipped with surgical masks to the extent they are available.

This guidance is not intended for healthcare workers and first responders who have any symptoms of COVID-19, have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or for those who have been advised that they are ill or may be ill with COVID-19.  If you are ill, you must stay home unless seeking medical care. 

The Health Officer will continue to closely follow any changes on this topic and may update this guidance in response to any state and federal public health authorities’ recommendations.

Dr. Sundari R. Mase, MD MPH
Health Officer of the County of Sonoma

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