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Salt Lake County Health Department
General Information  
Phone: (385) 468-4100

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated July 2, 2020

FAQ: Face Coverings

Why are face coverings now required?

Salt Lake County, like much of Utah, has seen an alarming increase in the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Prior to June, we never had more than 150 positive cases in a day, and on most days, we saw fewer than 100. We are now consistently seeing 200 or more new cases reported each day. Consistent, widespread use of correctly worn face coverings is one of the most effective ways to help control transmission of the illness.

Is the increase in cases tied to increased testing?

No, the increase in cases is not due to increased testing; our test positivity rate has increased from a 5% average to nearly 8%, which indicates a significant increase in transmission of the virus.

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%-80%.

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:

  • at public gatherings, indoor or out, where consistent social distancing is not possible.
  • while waiting outside or inside retail and other public locations,
    including bars and restaurants until seated.
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 person’s job or work.
  • In circumstances not reasonably conducive to wearing a face covering, such as while swimming or engaging in strenuous physical activity*.
*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.
Are children required to wear a face covering?

Yes, children over 2 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 I have to wear a specific type of face covering?

No.

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.

The CDC reports that COVID-19 antibody testing in communities like Utah—with less than 5% of their total population infected—approximately 50% of positive results are false positives, meaning half of the people who test positive for antibodies do not really have them.

Further, 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.

Both the state and county also have face coverings available, particularly for vulnerable populations and people without economic means to purchase them.

You can request a free face covering from the State of Utah or, on June 29 and 30, Salt Lake County distributed 100,000 face coverings across nearly 40 community organizations. These community organizations will see that these face coverings reach vulnerable populations they serve, including people without economic means to purchase a face covering.

 

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 Thursday, August 20.