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Monroe County urges covering face in public


Monroe County officials are recommending that all residents wear a cloth face covering when out in public, particularly in places such as grocery stores and pharmacies where maintaining six feet of distance from others can be difficult.

A homemade cloth mask. - FILE PHOTO
  • A homemade cloth mask.
County Executive Adam Bello announced the recommendation Monday, saying it was meant to amplify new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. He stressed that face coverings are not meant to replace social distancing measures, but are instead intended as an additional precautionary measure.

“This is not an invitation to start engaging in risky behavior,” Bello said shortly before demonstrating on a Zoom video call how to make a covering with a pair of rubber bands and a 22-inch-by-22-inch square of fabric.

Most people should not wear medical masks, such as surgical masks and N95 filtering masks, Bello stressed. Medical workers and first responders have a critical need for those masks.

Bello acknowledged that the county’s recommendation may be anxiety-inducing for some, but stressed that public cooperation could have a significant impact on the spread of coronavirus.

Asking people to wear face coverings is valuable in the same way as asking people to cough or sneeze into their elbows, Bello said. The homemade masks are meant to prevent people from spreading the virus as opposed to preventing contraction. The cloth helps block moisture from breathing, coughing, and sneezing.

During Monday’s call, Jamie Saunders, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester, also issued a call for donations of homemade masks. Community-based organizations need about 50,000 masks immediately that they can provide to staff, volunteers, and people in need, Saunders said.

The masks can be donated at any Goodwill location. More information, including the CDC’s instructions for making masks, is available at

Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at