If you have to go to the grocery store, pharmacy or anywhere else where social distancing is tough, the CDC now recommends wearing a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines for wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re now recommended for anyone in public settings where staying 6 feet away from others is more difficult, especially where significant community spread is occurring.

Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society have implemented new face mask requirements for caregivers and providers as well. They now must wear surgical face masks at all times while in clinic, hospital, skilled nursing facility, assisted living, home health and hospice care settings.

Providers caring for presumed or known positive COVID-19 patients will continue to wear N95 respirators or PAPRs.

Sanford and the Good Samaritan Society are intensifying infection control measures to protect patients, residents and health care staff.

“Our knowledge regarding COVID-19 is rapidly expanding. This allows us the opportunity to update personal protective equipment policies to incorporate the best evidence,” said Allison Suttle, M.D., chief medical officer of Sanford Health. “This proactive action will help minimize virus transmission from people who may carry COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms.”

The CDC’s previous recommendations for face masks applied only to people sick with COVID-19 or for health care providers working closely with those patients. But the possibility of transmission from asymptomatic people prompted the CDC to widen its recommendation to the general public.

The CDC emphasizes that 6-foot social distancing is still a crucial tool in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The face coverings are simply an additional measure of protection.

Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, the CDC is careful to explain. Those are reserved for health care workers. Instead, feel free to use household materials or make your own face coverings.