COVID-19 Workplace Safety Protocols - Face Coverings

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A message from:
Board of Supervisors
Susan S. Muranishi, County Administrator

December 15, 2020

We hope you are staying healthy and took time over the weekend to care for yourselves. Looking forward, we have been sheltering in place now for nine months and 2020 comes to a close in just two weeks. This week also brings a glimmer of hope with the arrival of the first COVID-19 vaccine for front line healthcare workers.

As you know, despite efforts to flatten the curve and curtail the spread of COVID-19 for the past nine months, we are in the midst of a surge with more stringent Shelter in Place orders and several new requirements related to workplace safety. Consistent with the County’s ongoing commitment to the safety and health of our valued employees, we are providing updated guidance and information related to wearing face coverings and reminding you of other important workplace safety protocols that must be followed.

The key updates and reminders related to wearing face coverings at work include:

  • Everyone must wear a face covering in the workplace unless the employee is working in an office or another room alone;
  • Face coverings must cover both the nose and mouth at all times;
  • Employees who work in an open floor plan (i.e., workstations/cubicles - irrespective of cubicle height) must wear a face covering while in their workstation/cubicle, unless the employee is the single occupant in the entire room;
  • Face coverings must be worn in conference rooms or areas where others may also enter; and
  • Employees may only remove a face covering when eating/drinking, and must ensure they maintain a distance of at least 6-feet away from other persons.

Since mid-April 2020 and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has been required to wear a face covering whenever out of the house for essential reasons, including work, in accordance with the Alameda County Health Officer (CHO) Orders. All County employees were provided with guidance on wearing a face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 while at work on April 19, 2020.

In response to significant increases in the incidence rates of COVID-19 across the State, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued updated guidance on the use of face coverings (State Guidance) on November 16, 2020. The updated State Guidance requires that individuals always wear a face covering when outside the home unless one (1) of 11 enumerated exemptions applies. The State Guidance concerning face coverings is more stringent than the prior local CHO Order and, therefore, supersedes the local CHO Order. Compliance with the State Guidance is mandatory.

Updates: Face Coverings

In compliance with the revised State mandate and Executive Orders issued by Governor Newsom, County employees are required to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth in the workplace. Wearing a face covering over both the nose and mouth is known to reduce the risk of transmission to others from individuals who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected.

Prior guidance only required individuals to wear a face covering when working "in any room or enclosed area where other people are present when unable to physically distance." However, under the updated State Guidance, employees must wear a face covering at all times over the nose and mouth in the workplace, whether indoors or outdoors, and when in contact, or likely to come into contact, with others unless the employee is working in an office or room alone. As a result, County employees whose workstations/cubicles are in an area with an open floor plan are required to wear a face covering while at their workstations/cubicles (irrespective of cubicle height) unless the employee’s workstation/cubicle is in a room where they are alone. Face coverings are required even if the cubicle has 6-foot walls or plexiglass partitions.

As a reminder, visitors entering County facilities must also wear face coverings at all times (except while eating or drinking, and "provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least 6-feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence") while in a County facility. This applies to all adults and children 2 years of age and older. Only individuals who articulate they have been instructed not to wear a face covering by their medical provider are exempt from wearing one.

The attached updated Employee Guidance FAQs (revised 12/1/20) should respond to most questions and reaffirms the mandate that face coverings must be worn in the workplace.

Reasonable Accommodation Requests Related to Face Coverings

The State Guidance recognizes an exception for persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. As noted in the State Guidance, such conditions are rare.

Other Important Safety Protocols

In addition to wearing a face covering while at work, there are several other important safety protocols that must be followed to ensure the health and safety of our employees, residents, and communities. Please continue to comply with the following protocols in addition to wearing your face covering.

Social Distancing

Social (physical) distancing involves maintaining a minimum of 6-feet of distance between individuals as an effective way to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

As a reminder, telework/telecommute continues to be the primary tool to decrease employees' exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. All employees whose job is conducive to telework or work from home should continue to do so as much as possible during this pandemic and recent surge.

To promote a safe and healthy workplace, employees must continue to maintain at least 6-feet of physical distance from customers, clients, and each other. This includes modifying or adjusting seats, furniture, and workstations to maintain social distancing of 6-feet between employees, where possible. Employees may momentarily come closer when necessary to accept payment, deliver goods or services, or as otherwise necessary.

Employees are discouraged from congregating in any area, but especially in common areas or high-traffic areas such as break rooms, bathrooms, hallways, and stairways. Common areas should be closed or restricted, using barriers, or by increasing physical distance between tables and chairs.

Daily Self-Screening

Employees are required to complete a daily health self-screening assessment at the start of their work shift upon arrival to their workplace and stay home if they are ill. Symptom screening is a critical tool that will help reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19 transmission. Continuing to comply with the County's symptom screening protocols is an essential component of each agency/department’s workplace readiness plan.

The health screening of visitors in the workplace must include questions regarding symptoms for COVID-19 and whether the individual has had contact with a person known to be infected with COVID-19 in the last 14 days. For information about screening for symptoms and temperature, please review the guidance issued by the CDC or ACPHD.

Wash your Hands

All employees are encouraged to frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and/or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Our employees also have the duty to be alert to unsafe and/or unhealthy practices or conditions, especially during the pandemic. Please report any concerns and issues to your immediate supervisor.


The Alameda County Public Health Department’s website is updated regularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and new information is available. Please visit ACPHD COVID-19 Updates:

We appreciate your continued cooperation and adherence to workplace safety protocols designed to protect the health of our valued employees, residents and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and current surge. Your ongoing commitment to public service and support of workplace safety protocols will help you stay healthy and save lives.

Together, let us safely celebrate the end of 2020 and look forward to a brighter new year filled with good health, hope and peace.