Updated January 5, 2021
While vaccines are in the process of being approved for use, there is currently no vaccine broadly available for COVID-19. Even when vaccines become available, it's going to take a while for them to be available for everyone.
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:
See the CDC's Steps to Prevent Illness page for more information.
The guidance from state and local health departments, as well as the federal government, is that people should wear facial coverings (masks). And, many Bay Area counties are now requiring everyone over the age of 12 to wear a mask or face covering in public. 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?
Many Bay Area counties, including Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, are now requiring everyone to wear a mask or face covering in public. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) and John Muir Health recommend 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?
When outside, you must carry masks or face coverings with you, and use them whenever you come near six feet of others. You don’t need to wear a mask on outdoor walks where you can easily maintain more than six feet of distance. If you’re doing more strenuous exercise, such as running or bicycling, you should stay more than six feet away from others, move to the other side of the road from any pedestrians when possible and wear a mask if possible.
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 cloth face covering that covers their mouth and nose if they must be around other people, even at home. 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?
Children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering that covers their nose and mouth when in the community setting (at the grocery store, a medical office or a pharmacy). Please ensure that the child’s mask fits securely.
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:
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 purchase surgical or N95 masks to wear, 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. In the Bay Area some people have existing supplies of N95 masks, often previously purchased to help protect against smoke from area wildfires. Many people have questions about donating N95 masks. Masks can only be donated if they are in unopened, original packaging. If you have N95 masks already and they can’t be donated, it’s fine to use 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.
SEWN CLOTH FACE COVERING
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.
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.
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.
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)
For questions about your health, please contact your doctor.
Learn from our providers about all the precautions we have in place to help keep you safe should you need care for any condition.
Dr. Andrew Dublin, Cardiologist, discusses the importance of not delaying cardiac services and surgeries during COVID-19.
Dr. Piyush Aggarwal, Colon and Rectal Surgeon, discusses how to identify and treat hemorrhoids.
Dr. Drew Schembre, Medical Director for John Muir Health Digestive Health Services, discusses digestive health symptoms to watch and care for now.
Shellie Campos, NP discusses how early detection of breast cancer saves lives and facilitates treatment options.
Jennifer Cave-Brown, NP and stroke coordinator, discusses signs and symptoms of stroke, including the importance of seeking care without delay.
The global COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful. Whether you are personally dealing with illness, managing a new work environment, working in an essential job, caring for kids at home while facilitating distance learning, or managing job and financial insecurity – we’re living in a time, full of unknowns, uncertainty, and fear.
What you may be feeling and experiencing is a stress response, which is a natural reaction to everything that’s going on. And, there are tools and resources that can help you.
Stress reactions during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
Some people may react more strongly to stressful experiences.
People who may respond more strongly to a crisis like COVID-19 include:
For people at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or other vulnerable populations, there may be added distress, including:
Tools for coping with stress
Understanding what your stress response is, and learning tools for coping with stress, can help you handle the uncertain times we are currently living in. If the coping tools you’re using aren’t helping and your ability to handle stress is decreasing, please call our Behavioral Health Admissions team. We can assess your situation over the phone and either schedule an intake appointment or assist you in finding other helpful resources. Call (925) 674-4265 for information.
Helping children with stress
Children and teens look to the trusted adults in their lives to understand how to handle new and unfamiliar situations. When parents and caregivers deal with the stress of COVID-19 calmly and confidently, children learn how they too can manage.
Stress response in children
Children and teens may respond to stress in varying ways. Some stress responses may include:
How to support your children
Mental and Emotional Health Resources
Sometimes practicing coping tools on your own isn’t enough, and you need the help of mental health experts. Our Behavioral Health Admissions team can assess your or your child’s situation over the phone and either schedule an intake appointment or assist you in finding other helpful resources. Call (925) 674-4245 for information.
Additionally, while in-person visits are limited during the COVID-19 crisis, many emotional support agencies are providing free or low-cost mental health services virtually.
A free, non-emergency resource for anyone in California seeking emotional support. Assistance is provided via phone and webchat on a nondiscriminatory basis to anyone in need.
Some concerns callers share are challenges with interpersonal relationships, anxiety, panic, depression, finance, and alcohol and drug use.
|NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) HelpLine||
Free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public.
1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or text “NAMI” to 741741
Free emotional support line for anyone feeling anxious about the coronavirus. It’s available to anyone 24/7 and will connect you with a counselor who is standing by for help.
Free support, counseling, and for people in emotional or psychological distress
211 or 800-833-2900 or text ‘HOPE’ to 20121
Provides information on community resources including mental health
211 or text 898211
Provides information on community resources including mental health
Mental Health Crises
For a mental health crisis involving someone who is suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
There are additional resources available for people who are in a mental health crisis:
John Muir Health is steadfastly committed to providing the best possible care to our community during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our health system has kept abreast of, and followed, all guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), as well as our local and state Public Health Departments. On December 28, 2020, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) published a comprehensive Pandemic Care Continuum Guidelines document with the recommendation that acute care hospitals adopt the guidelines or something similar.
After careful review of the Care Continuum Guidelines published by CDPH, John Muir Health’s Walnut Creek and Concord Medical Centers have decided to adopt and follow the guidelines that follow to inform our decision-making as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and potentially grows in the coming months. We have already implemented a number of these guidelines as part of our pandemic response plan.
The Guidelines provide an important framework for individual hospitals to follow. They emphasize a regional plan in the event that any hospital in our region becomes heavily impacted by COVID-19 patients and requires assistance from the broader health care community. John Muir Health is committed to continuing to support and partner with the Contra Costa Health Services, CDPH and other area hospitals so that community members receive high-quality care during this difficult time.
This past year presented extraordinary challenges to our health care system. Consistent with our mission, John Muir Health has stepped up to these challenges and our focus continues to be on the health and safety of our patients, community, physicians and staff. Please use our website “Contact Us” page if you have any questions. Thank you.