It is never safe to look directly at the sun’s rays – even if the sun is partially obscured. When watching a partial eclipse you must wear classes at all times if you want to face the sun, or use an alternate indirect method. This also applies during a total eclipse up until the time when the sun is completely blocked.
During the short time when the moon completely obscures the sun – known as the period of totality – it is safe to look directly at the star, but it is crucial that you know when to take off and put back on your glasses.
First and foremost: check for local information on timing of when the total eclipse will begin and end. NASA’s page of eclipse times is a good place to start.
Second: The sun provides important clues for when totality is about to start and end.
It is important to note that in the Oakland, CA area we will not be experience a total eclipse.