Updated July 1, 2020
- How to protect yourself and your family
- Using cloth face masks
- What if I have a specific health condition?
- What if I'm having a hard time mentally and emotionally?
- What other resources are available?
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 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:
- 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 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
- 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.
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)
- Bandana (or square cotton cloth approximately 20”x20”)
- Coffee filter
- Rubber bands (or hair ties)
- Scissors (if you are cutting your own cloth)
- 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.
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:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
Some people may react more strongly to stressful experiences.
People who may respond more strongly to a crisis like COVID-19 include:
- People with mental health and substance use issues
- Those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 – including people who are older or have chronic conditions
- Children and teens
- People helping with the COVID-19 response, like health care providers, first responders and other essential workers.
For people at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or other vulnerable populations, there may be added distress, including:
- Concern about protecting oneself from the virus.
- Concern that regular medical care or community services may be disrupted due to facility closures or reductions in services and public transport closure.
- Feeling socially isolated, especially if they live alone or are in a community setting that does not allow visitors because of the outbreak.
- Guilt if loved ones or the community help them with activities of daily living.
- Concern about economic security – employment, food, housing and safety.
- Fear of stigma because of age, race or ethnicity, disability, or perceived likelihood of spreading COVID-19.
Tools for coping with stress
- Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to the news, including on social media. Try limiting the news to once a day, and see if that helps decrease your stress.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate
- Try to eat healthy, well balanced meals
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid alcohol and drugs
- Connect with others. Talk to friends, family or other people you trust. Tell them how you’re feeling and find out how they’re doing as well. Remembering that we’re all in this together can be helpful.
- Make time to relax and do things you enjoy, that can be done at home.
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:
- Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
- Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
- Excessive worry or sadness
- Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
- Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
- Poor school performance or avoiding school work
- Difficulty with attention and concentration
- Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
- Unexplained headaches or body pain
- Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
How to support your children
- Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
- Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
- Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of COVID-19, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
- Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
- Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
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:
- Contra Costa Crisis Center: call 211 or text HOPE to 20121
- 211 Alameda County: Call 211 or 211 or text 898211
- 211 Solano County: Call 211
- Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 (TTY 800-846-8517) or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for 24/7 support.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for 24/7 crisis support.
- California Suicide & Crisis Hotlines: Find phone numbers and links to all the suicide and crisis hotlines by county in California.