General Information About COVID-19
Updated April 6, 2020
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Who is most at risk for COVID-19?
- What if I have a specific health condition?
- How can I help protect myself and my family?
- Using cloth face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19
- What other resources are available?
- Media Inquiries
Fever and respiratory symptoms, including a cough and difficulty breathing. These can also be the symptoms of other common illnesses circulating in the community.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment may change daily. The latest updates are available on CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website.
We understand that those with specific health conditions may have questions and concerns about COVID-19. Here are some resources you may find useful:
- Breast Cancer: https://www.breastcancer.org/about_us/press_room/news/coronavirus
- Cancer: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/common-questions-about-the-new-coronavirus-outbreak.html
- Colorectal Cancer: https://fightcolorectalcancer.org/blog/cancer-and-covid-19/
- Diabetes: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/treatment-care/planning-sick-days/coronavirus
- Heart Disease: https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/coronavirus-covid-19-resources
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/coronavirus-update/adults
- Lung Cancer: https://www.lung.org/about-us/media/top-stories/update-covid-19.html
- Prostate Cancer: https://zerocancer.org/learn/current-patients/covid-19/
- Stress and Anxiety: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
For questions about your health, please contact your doctor.
There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available. Watch the CDC's hand washing video.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home and do not travel when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
See the CDC's Steps to Prevent Illness page for more information.
The newest guidance from state and local health departments, as well as the federal government, is that people should wear facial coverings (masks). But we know the details can be confusing: when, what kind, and how can you make one? We spoke with Dr. Jorge Bernett, medical director for infectious disease at John Muir Health, to provide guidance for masks.
Why should I wear a cloth mask?
Wearing a cloth mask can help to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
If I wear a cloth mask, does that mean that I no longer need to comply with the stay-at-home order?
No. Masks are not a substitute for staying home, maintaining physical distance of 6+ feet, and washing hands frequently. These measures are the best ways to prevent contracting and spreading COVID-19.
When should I wear a cloth mask?
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) and John Muir Health are now recommending that people wear cloth face masks in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. This is especially recommended in areas where community-based transmission of COVID-19 is significant, including many Bay Area counties.
Should I wear a mask when I go for a walk?
You don’t need to wear a mask on outdoor walks where you can easily maintain six feet or more of distance.
Do I need to wear a mask at home?
Wearing cloth face masks when you’re at home is also not suggested.
What if someone in my house is sick with COVID-19? Should everyone else in the house wear a cloth mask?
The patient and other household members should have access to appropriate, recommended personal protective equipment (at a minimum gloves and face mask). The person who is ill should separate themselves from others in the house and wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose when they are around other people. If the sick person can’t wear a cloth face covering, other family members should wear one while in the same room with them. It’s important for all people in the house to practice good hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
What about young children or other people who may not be able to remove the cloth mask without assistance?
Cloth face masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
What kind of mask should I wear?
A cloth face mask, either commercially made or homemade, that covers the nose and mouth.
The cloth mask should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Include multiple layers of fabric
- Allow for breathing without restriction
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to the shape
Avoid touching your face to adjust your mask, and if you do so, wash your hands for 20 seconds afterwards.
Can I wear a surgical or N95 mask?
Please do not wear surgical or N95 masks, as supplies are still limited and those should be reserved for health care workers and first responders. This is because health care workers and first responders come into contact with patients with COVID-19 in the course of caring for them.
How should I care for my cloth mask?
Masks should be washed in a washing machine, using hot water and detergent. They should be dried using the hot cycle. Ideally, masks should be washed after every use. Be sure to keep the dirty mask away from other laundry items.
Don’t share masks with others! Each member of your family should have their own mask or set of masks.
What kind of fabric is best for making a cloth mask?
Fabrics used for making masks should be tightly woven, such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets. A cotton t-shirt can also be used in a pinch.
A simple light test can help you decide whether a fabric is a good choice for a mask. Hold it up to bright light. If the light shines through and you can see the fibers in the fabric, it’s not a good choice. The best choice are fabrics that are woven more densely, so light doesn’t pass through it as much.
How can I make my own cloth masks?
There are many online tutorials for making masks. The good news: you don’t have to be an expert at sewing to make your own masks using simple household materials.
Here are three simple ways to make your own masks, using sew or no sew methods. More experienced sewers can also download this pattern provided by one of our John Muir Health nurses.
Sew and No Sew Instructions
SEWN CLOTH FACE COVERING
- Two 10”x6” rectangles of cotton fabric
- Two 6” pieces of elastic (or rubber bands, string, cloth strips, or hair ties)
- Needle and thread (or bobby pin)
- Sewing machine
1. Cut out two 10-by-6-inch rectangles of cotton fabric. Use tightly woven cotton, such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets. T-shirt fabric will work in a pinch. Stack the two rectangles; you will sew the mask as if it was a single piece of fabric.
3. Run a 6-inch length of 1/8-inch wide elastic through the wider hem on each side of the mask. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle or a bobby pin to thread it through. Tie the ends tight. Don’t have elastic? Use hair ties or elastic head bands. If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the mask behind your head.
2. Fold over the long sides ¼ inch and hem. Then fold the double layer of fabric over ½ inch along the short sides and stitch down.
4. Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the mask on the elastic and adjust so the mask fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping.
QUICK CUT T-SHIRT FACE COVERING (NO SEW METHOD)
BANDANA FACE COVERING (NO SEW METHOD)
- Bandana (or square cotton cloth approximately 20”x20”)
- Coffee filter
- Rubber bands (or hair ties)
- Scissors (if you are cutting your own cloth)
- John Muir Health COVID-19 hotline: (925) 952-5600
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- California Department of Public Health
- Contra Costa Health Services
- Alameda County Public Health Department
- Solano County Public Health
If you are a member of the media seeking information, please contact:
Director, Corporate Communications
Send a message