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Five Bay Area counties with high vax rates get exemptions from new state mask mandate

San Francisco and four other Bay Area counties gained exemptions from the new California indoor mask mandate, allowing gym patrons and office workers to continue to go maskless if everyone is vaccinated.

The exemptions prompted a sigh of relief from local businesses, though the new COVID wave is already hurting tourism and spooking gym customers in SF.

The previous state mask mandate was lifted Nov. 1. But rising case numbers statewide and the looming threat of the new Omicron variant prompted the state to again require masks in most public places, at least until Jan. 15.  

San Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin, Alameda, and Sonoma counties all said their rules won't change, despite the month-long statewide mandate that went into effect Wednesday morning.  

"The limited exceptions we made are for very low-risk scenarios where everyone is vaccinated," Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County, said in a statement. "Our community already understands and is following these rules and it would be confusing to change them for just one month."  

Those scenarios include office settings, commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, and college classes where certain criteria are met. Those present must be fully vaccinated, there should be no more than 100 people present, the site shouldn't be open to the general public, and the host or organization must have a list of people present.  

The host must also provide visible signage prohibiting entry to those with COVID-19 symptoms, and no one present should have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 for the past 14 days.