The relaxed masking order—which revives the rules that were present prior to the Omicron surge—applies to groups that are "up to date" on their vaccinations, including booster shots if they are eligible.
The new order comes as hospitalizations and case counts from the highly transmissible Omicron variant have started to drop. The statewide masking mandate is currently slated to run until Feb. 15.
Officials said gyms and businesses can keep their masking policy as long as necessary to get their staff members and clients boosted.
Locally, San Francisco health officer Dr. Grant Colfax said last week that Omicron infections peaked on Jan. 8 with hospitalizations and deaths act as lagging indicators.
“Our goal is no longer to prevent every case of Covid,” he said. “Instead, our goal is to prevent the worst outcomes of the disease, such as hospitalizations and deaths, and to do this while keeping essential services open, like schools and hospitals.”
The San Francisco Public Health Department recommends that people get vaccinated or receive a booster dose as soon as possible—at least 10 days but no more than 30 days after recovery from infection.
Other updates to the local health order include allowing residents to enter indoor “mega-events” of 500 people or more with a negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to being “up to date” on vaccinations.
Medical and religious exemptions to vaccination requirements to enter locations such as indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centers are also now being allowed with proof of a negative Covid test.
The order also extends the deadline to March 1 for personnel in high-risk settings, including police officers and paramedics, to be up-to-date on vaccination, including boosters if eligible.
“Today’s announcement from the City is a big step in the right direction in helping small fitness business owners get back on their feet after two punishing years," the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition said in a statement.
"While we have all become very used to working out with a mask on, I am sure everyone will be grateful they don’t have to do more lunges or sun salutations with a piece of cloth over their mouths.”