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State of California—Health and Human Services Agency
California Department of Public Health

April 14, 2020

General Public

Use of Personal Protective Equipment during COVID-19 Outbreak

Note: This Guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only. ​​​

​This guidance is based on what is currently known about the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

This document is intended to provide guidance to the public on the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE).  California is currently experiencing severe shortages of PPE. We all need to do our part to conserve and use PPE appropriately so that it is available for healthcare workers or social services workers who are performing direct patient care.


COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel virus that has been spreading worldwide. Community-acquired cases have now been confirmed in California, and the situation is changing daily. CDPH is monitoring COVID-19 with local and federal partners, and providing guidance and resources to prevent, detect and respond to the occurrence of COVID-19 cases in California.

What is Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is specialized clothing or equipment worn by health care workers for their protection and to help prevent the spread of germs between patients. PPE includes but is not limited to gloves, gowns/aprons, goggles or face shields, facemasks and respirators. PPE does not guarantee total protection and must be used in combination with precautionary measures such as hand hygiene to be most effective. PPE used improperly (such as when taking off PPE) can provide a false sense of protection and potentially lead to self-contamination, particularly when not combined with other hygiene measures.

Who Needs Personal Protective Equipment

Health Care Workers/Social Service Workers
The use of PPE is crucial for healthcare workers, social services workers and other first responders (for example, emergency medical technicians) that perform direct patient care and routinely have prolonged, close direct contact with patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infection or their bodily fluids. 

PPE is not required, however, for employees or visitors of healthcare facilities that do not perform direct patient care or enter the room(s) of patients.
Healthcare facilities should review CDC's PPE optimization strategies, including options for extended use, reprocessing, and reuse of the various PPE components given current shortages of PPE. 
Individuals with Confirmed or Suspect COVID-19
CDC recommends that a facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms such as cough. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.

Healthy Individuals 

CDPH does not recommend that the general public routinely use PPE to prevent respiratory illness, including COVID-19.  Instead, CDPH recommends that we take precautionary measures such as:
  • Washing hands with soap and water.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Staying away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough.
  • Following guidance from public health officials such as staying home if you are over the age of 65 or have underlying health conditions.

In addition to the precautionary measure listed above, the general public may consider the personal option of wearing a cloth face covering.  For more information on the use of cloth face coverings, please review CDPH’s Face Coverings Guidance

During this time of PPE shortages, we all need to do our part to conserve and use PPE appropriately so that it is available where it is most needed - for healthcare workers, first responders, social service workers, and other caregivers so that they can safely take care of you and your loved ones.
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