As the Omicron wave continues its retreat, San Francisco is lifting its universal indoor masking mandate in public settings starting next Wednesday to bring its rules in line with the state.
Regardless of vaccination status masking is still required in a few key settings including in public transportation, healthcare spaces, congregate settings like prisons and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and K-12 schools.
Unvaccinated residents over the age of 2 will still be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings. Masking is also currently required for children and staff at K-12 schools, however, there is an indication from state health officials that rules will be relaxed in the coming weeks.
Businesses will have the ability to impose their own stricter masking rules, such as requirements for staff and patrons to wear masks indoors.
Proof of vaccination or a negative test is still required in San Francisco to enter bars, gyms and other places where food and drinks are consumed.
The new order going into effect Feb. 16 also increases the definition of indoor “mega-events” from 500 to 1,000 capacity and outdoor “mega-events from 5,000 to 10,000.” Patrons are required to be “up to date” with vaccinations, including boosters if eligible, or show a negative test in order to attend these gatherings.
San Francisco health officials said masking remains an effective tactic in controlling the spread of the virus in situations where case rates remain high, or in poorly ventilated indoor settings.
San Francisco’s confirmed Covid cases, as well as hospitalizations, have continued to drop from the levels seen in January due to the Omicron wave. Health officials attribute this in large part to the city’s high vaccination and booster rates, and they’re encouraging people to stay “up to date” with vaccinations to prevent severe illness or death from future variants of the virus.
In San Francisco, around 84% of residents are vaccinated and 64% have received their booster shot.
“We are able to take this next major step of removing the universal indoor mask requirement because we have laid a strong foundation in good public health protections and know we can prevent severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” San Francisco’s health officer, Dr. Susan Philip, said in a statement.
Kevin Truong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org