SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The California Department of Public Health said Wednesday wearing cloth face coverings could help prevent the spread of coronavirus when used in conjunction with social distancing and frequent handwashing.

While the state is not requiring people to wear face coverings, State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell said wearing cloth face coverings could “could provide some additional benefit by acting as a reminder for other people to keep their distance, and it could help reduce the spread of infectious particles from those who could be infected but don’t have symptoms.”

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The department of public health said wearing a face mask is not a substitute for social distancing and handwashing. Additionally, officials emphasized Californians should not wear N95 or surgical masks, which are needed and in short supply for health care workers and first responders.

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“Face coverings could provide some additional protection against COVID-19, but Californians should not have a false sense of security if they choose to wear them. Make sure you’re also staying 6 feet away from other people if you have to leave your home to get groceries or prescriptions,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in a press release.

Health officials said face coverings could increase risk if users let their guard down and ignore physical distancing and handwashing defenses.

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According to CDPH, the best defense against COVID-19 continues to be:

  • Staying at home and physical distancing
  • Washing hands frequently
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding being around sick people