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What you need to know about the new facial covering order in Dallas County

Dallas County is the latest county to require residents to wear some sort of cloth face covering. Travis, Bastrop, and Hidalgo Counties have similar orders in place.

As Dallas County concludes another week under its stay-at-home order, a new requirement will be implemented for community members to follow as they conduct essential business. 

Judge Clay Jenkins announced beginning Saturday all residents over the age of 2, will be required to wear a face-coverings when visiting essential businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19. Essential business employees and riders of public transportation will also be required to comply with the order.

The decision was made after talking with local health leaders, the Texas Retailers Association, Uber and Dallas Area Rapid Transit, who all supported the idea and said it would help protect their workers, Jenkins said.

The new order, under the current Declaration of Local Disaster, calls for fabric coverings, not medical-grade masks or N-95 respirators, for people who are visiting essential businesses, like grocery stores or the bank.

"Don't look at this as an abridgment of your freedoms," Jenkins said. "You still have the freedom to do everything you could do yesterday, you’re going to do it a little bit more safely for you and your family and the public and the front line workers at the grocery store."

The declaration says that wearing a homemade mask, scarf, bandana or handkerchief is acceptable. It also states parents and guardians are responsible for making sure children ages 2 to 10 are properly masked.

Jenkins clarified at a news conference Thursday that the mandate will not be enforced by police, but is meant to help frontline workers "who are risking so much to get you what you need."

"Do I have to wear my mask while I'm driving my car to the grocery store? No," Jenkins said. "Do I have to wear my mask while I’m out walking around my neighborhood? No. ... So when do I need it? You need it when you go to a big box store or grocery store and make sure kids have it on, too."

City of Dallas officials stress that wearing a cloth mask is not a substitute for social distancing and that those guidelines must continue to be followed to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus. 

RELATED: How to properly wear face masks to prevent coronavirus spread

There are important guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when it comes to wearing a facemask.

Here is what you need to know about properly wearing a cloth face covering:

  • Cloth face coverings 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
  • Cloth face coverings 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 cloth face-covering without assistance.

RELATED: How to make your own face mask without a sewing machine

The CDC also has guidelines on how to clean a cloth face covering:

Should cloth face coverings be washed or otherwise cleaned regularly? How regularly? 

Yes. They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use. 

How does one safely sterilize/clean a cloth face covering? 

A washing machine should suffice in properly washing a cloth face covering. 

How does one safely remove a used cloth face covering? 

Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their cloth face covering and wash hands immediately after removing. 

Thursday afternoon, Wylie Fire-Rescue officials tweeted about a warning for community members not to microwave their face masks and instead follow proper CDC guidelines. 

RELATED: VERIFY: Sanitize your cloth masks in the washing machine, not the microwave

Jenkins responded to one of our WFAA reporters on Twitter, stating government officials will not be citing those who do not comply with the new facecloth order.

Below is a FAQ document released by Dallas County officials regarding the new order. 

Digital Producer Eline de Bruijn contributed to this report.

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