San Francisco to Ease Indoor Mask Requirements for Certain Indoor Settings Where Stable Groups of Fully Vaccinated People Gather
Masking requirements will be eased on October 15 for offices, gyms and certain other settings with 100% full vaccination, as COVID-19 cases recede and vaccination requirements for employees of businesses go into effect
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) announced today that so long as case and hospitalization rates remain stable or decline, indoor masking requirements will be lifted on October 15 in certain, limited settings. This includes places where stable cohorts of fully vaccinated individuals gather, and where other safety measures are followed. These controlled settings with individuals who regularly interact are considered safer indoor settings for fully vaccinated individuals to remove their masks.
These settings include offices, gyms, and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, and indoor college classes or other organized gatherings of individuals who meet regularly, not exceeding 100 people. People in these settings may remove their masks if the employer or host of the gathering can control access to the setting and verify 100% full vaccination of everyone in the setting. The employer or host must also ensure proper ventilation, no recent COVID-19 outbreaks, and children under 12 and guests are not present, among other safety measures.
“I’m excited that we’re once again at a place where we can begin easing the mask requirements, which is the direct result of the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around them safe,” said Mayor Breed. “This is an important step forward for San Francisco, particularly for our downtown, because when I talk to office workers and business leaders one of the things I continue to hear is that they’re anxious to get back to a more normal routine at work where they can interact with their colleagues. Our economy is bouncing back, the City feels like it is coming alive again, and this is yet another milestone in our recovery.”
San Francisco, in concert with eight other Bay Area jurisdictions, also today released the criteria for lifting the indoor universal mask mandate in most other settings once a sustained period of low and stable COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been achieved and a high threshold of the population is fully vaccinated, including children. More information about the criteria can be found at sf.gov/news.
Indoor masking remains in effect for all settings accessed by the wider public, including retail stores and other shared indoor areas such as common areas of a building elevators, lobbies and restrooms, where people from different workplace settings could interact. Indoor masking also continues to apply in bars and restaurants except for patrons while actively eating or drinking, subject to the proof of vaccination requirements.
“Throughout this pandemic we’ve implemented common sense measures like masking and vaccinations to protect us through four surges in COVID-19 while keeping hospitalizations manageable,” said Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax. “Tragically, other areas of the country have seen outcomes much worse than ours. San Francisco’s health orders and shared mitigation efforts have been successful in keeping us safer as a community, and a relaxation of masking orders is warranted. We’ll continue to follow the data and science where it leads us.”
When issued, the changes to San Francisco’s Safer Return Together Order will include further details about the requirements to allow for mask removal by fully vaccinated individuals in these controlled settings. San Francisco has led the way in requiring proof of vaccination for many businesses, which provide the best defense against the virus and, along with indoor masking, has slowed the spread of the disease. San Francisco has a current average of 77 cases per day, a drop from 309 at the height of the summer’s surge. Cases among fully vaccinated individuals are currently at 7.4 per 100,000, while among those not fully vaccinated are 14.4 per 100,000. The vaccines remain highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
“Vaccines continue to be our path out of the pandemic, but masks have blunted the Delta-driven surge and protected our vital hospital capacity, while allowing businesses to remain open and children to return to school,” said Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip. “We thank all San Franciscans for participating in those successes. Well-fitted masks will continue to have a place in our lives in higher-risk settings, and everyone should feel free to wear a mask whenever they would like an extra layer of protection.”
Even as masking restrictions lift, indoor masking will remain in effect where required under state or federal rules, like public transportation, hospitals, jails, homeless shelters, and schools, as a recommendation for everyone to wear in large, crowded outdoor settings, and as a requirement under certain circumstances if there is an outbreak of cases.