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Covid masking and quarantine rules eased for young children in SF

San Francisco loosened some masking and quarantine policies for young children, allowing fully vaccinated kids to remove masks while practicing sports indoors and decreasing the time children two and older must spend in isolation after testing positive. 

The new guidance from the Department of Public Health now allows children ages 2 and older who have tested positive to return to childcare after 5 days of isolation if they don’t have symptoms and test negative. Children who were exposed to a positive case may also remain in school if they are asymptomatic. 

Previously, they were required to stay at home for 10 days. The new guidance now mirrors the recommendations for children in K-12 schools

All children two and over are still required to wear masks in most childcare settings—regardless of vaccination status—as an extra layer of protection. Those under the age of two are required to stick with the 10-day isolation procedure because they are not able to mask safely. 

During sports activities, competitors are allowed to unmask while in the water, during wrestling or martial arts matches, and while tumbling during cheer or gymnastics.

For other indoor sports, children who are “up to date” on their vaccinations are allowed to remove their masks during practice if the group is a fully vaccinated cohort that meets regularly without spectators. Masks are still required during competitions with other teams. 

According to DPH guidelines, face masks are generally not required outdoors except when in close contact with others. 

The new rules come as Omicron cases continue to fall from their record levels last month and amid growing pressure from some parents and doctors to lift Covid restrictions for school-aged children, citing the relatively low risk the virus poses to children and the negative impact on learning and socialization. 

UCSF physicians Dr. Jeanne Noble and Dr. Monica Gandhi co-wrote a toolkit last week—created by a multinational group of doctors calling themselves the “Urgency of Normal” coalition—for community members to advocate for rolling back restrictions to return to normalcy. 

“We recognize that the Omicron surge has been especially difficult for families of young children,” Dr. Susan Philip, the city’s health officer said in a statement. 

“These changes in our isolation and quarantine guidance will keep safeguards in place while reducing disruptions in care and learning. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in this age group are mild, and we look forward to soon offering vaccines to this group to add the last layer of protection pending federal and state reviews and approvals.”  

Kevin Truong can be reached at