News Releases
The latest news and announcements from Mayor London N. Breed

New Health Order Requires Residents and Workers to Wear Face Coverings Outside the Home

Face coverings and social distancing are essential behaviors on the path forward to reopen the City

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax today announced that everyone in San Francisco will be required to wear face coverings on most occasions when they are outside of their homes, a step that will be critical to the City’s ability to safely reopen further. The new rule strengthens the existing face covering Health Order by extending it to more activities.

As the City embarks on the path to recovery, relaxing restrictions on outdoor activities and employment, allowing retail curbside pickup and offering summer camps, there will be more movement of people outside their homes, even with the Stay Home order still in place. Wearing face coverings will be an essential habit to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus from person to person.

“As we begin to reopen, it is going to be more important than ever that people cover their faces when they are outside the home,” said Mayor Breed. “With more people moving about, we are tempting the virus to spread, and we need to do everything we can to stop that from happening. By covering your face, keeping six feet apart, and washing your hands, you will be helping us continue to make our way out of the crisis and onto the path of better times ahead.”

Face coverings help to stop droplets that may be infectious, even if the person wearing the mask has no or mild symptoms. By strengthening this form of protection, San Franciscans will be better prepared to participate safely in the gradual reopening of activities as we begin to move out of the health emergency.

The requirement is a Health Order by Dr. Tomás Aragón, Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco. The Order is effective at 11:59 p.m. on May 29, 2020. It is informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Previously, the City recommended face coverings on April 2nd, and then required them on April 17th for all essential businesses and in public facilities, on transit and when performing essential work. Now that requirement is expanded to whenever people are outside their homes in most situations in San Francisco, with very limited exceptions. 

“Wearing a mask, or other face covering, is one of the top three things you can do to help us re-open more, and reopen sooner,” said Dr. Colfax. “It is also very important to continue to social distancing and to get tested if you have any symptoms. These three actions will help build a community that is safe, healthy and protecting each other from exposure and transmission.”

Wearing a face covering is most effective when combined with physical distancing and hand washing. It is not a substitute for staying home, but it is a way to protect other people and reduce the chance of transmission when outside the house. San Francisco’s Stay Home order is still in effect, and residents should continue to stay inside as much as possible.

Face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and fit securely. They can be a manufactured or homemade mask, a bandanna, scarf, towel, neck gaiter or similar item. Cloth face coverings should be cleaned frequently with soap and water.

Masks with one-way valves are not effective because they allow air droplets to freely escape when the wearer exhales. They should not be worn and do not qualify as a face covering under the order. Medical masks – such as isolation masks or N95 masks – are not necessary for the general public. These items are still in short supply and must be reserved for health care workers and first responders.

Compliance with the new rule is not anticipated to be an issue, as the vast majority of San Franciscans have been adhering to the Stay Home Order and social distancing. Many people already are wearing face coverings outside. However, the order does carry the force of law, and noncompliance is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.

Summary of the new requirements – the Health Order and FAQs are posted online.

The exceptions defined in the previous face covering order remain in effect. Here are highlights of what’s new: 

  • Face coverings are required in most situations outside the home, including:
  • When exercising and you are within 30 feet of someone. The face covering can be loose fitting, like a bandana or neck gaiter.
  • When walking past someone on the sidewalk
  • For anyone working at, engaged in, or seeking services or goods from essential, outdoor and additional businesses, outdoor and other expanded activities, essential government functions, essential infrastructure work, most health care operations and when engaged in most transportation
  • When preparing food or other items for sale or distribution to people who are not members of their household 
  • It is recommended to consider wearing a face covering at home if someone in your household is a member of a vulnerable population.  

When face coverings are not required:

  • In a private office where others are not around or likely to come in
  • Driving in a car alone or with members of your household
  • When outside in a location where nobody is within 30 feet. Even then, you must have a face covering visible and ready for immediate use (around your neck, hanging from a pocket, purse, backpack, etc.) When someone is within 30 feet you must put it on. For example, if you are walking, jogging or biking, you must have a face covering visible, like a bandana tied around your neck, and you need to cover your nose and mouth with it when you are within 30 feet of anyone else.
  • For children 12 or younger
  • When a person is alone or with only members of their household, is stationary in an outdoor area such as a park, and is maintaining six feet of distance between them and the nearest people who do not live with them
  • When eating or drinking if they are alone or with only members of their household and nobody else is within six feet
  • For people with documented medical exceptions or other conditions that prevent them from wearing one