Last week, the public health departments in San Francisco and Marin counties announced changes to COVID-19 face mask requirements in indoor settings. On Friday, the softened mandates went into effect.
In both counties, an exemption allows people to remove their masks in some indoor settings where stable groups of fully vaccinated people gather. Think of these settings as places where the same group of people get together again and again, such as yoga classes or office settings.
Those places include offices, gyms, fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, college classes and other indoor gatherings, not exceeding 100 people.
The employer, or the host of the indoor gatherings, is required to control access and verify that everyone present is fully vaccinated. They must also ensure proper ventilation, no recent COVID-19 outbreaks, and that guests and children under 12 are not present, among other safety measures, the counties said.
The new exemption does not apply to public indoor settings such as retail stores, bars and restaurants or other places of businesses that are open to the public. People can continue to remove their masks temporarily in restaurants and bars to eat or drink.
San Francisco specifically noted that masks are still required in “shared indoor areas such as common areas of a building, [including] elevators, lobbies and restrooms, where people from different workplace settings could interact.”
— For more information on SF’s revised mandate, visit sfmayor.org.
— For more details on Marin’s softened mandate, visit marincounty.org.
When will SF and Marin and other Bay Area counties fully lift the indoor mask mandate?
Last week, San Francisco and Marin — along with six other Bay Area counties, including Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, Sonoma and Napa — also presented three criteria for when mask mandates can be lifted entirely.
First, a county must reach the “moderate” (yellow) tier of case rates, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker, and remain there for three weeks. Marin is the only county in the state in the yellow tier; it moved into this lower-risk position two days ago.
Second, the county’s health officer must determine that COVID-19 hospitalizations are “low and stable.”
Finally, 80% of a county’s total population must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or eight weeks after a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for children ages 5 to 11. As of Thursday, 75% of San Francisco’s population and 81% of Marin’s population is fully vaccinated.
Marin is the only county in the Bay Area that is close to meeting the criteria for lifting the mask mandate. “We want to see fewer people hospitalized with COVID-19 before lifting the mandate,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the county’s health director. “Last week, there were 15 total COVID-19 hospitalizations in Marin. So we set that as the metric — we’ll want to see less than 15 people in the hospital for COVID-19 before lifting the mandate.”
While Marin’s move into the yellow tier is promising, it needs to remain at that level for 21 consecutive days. “Three consecutive weeks in yellow will mean we’ve maintained fewer than 18 new cases per day on average,” Willis explained. “That’s among the lowest rates in the state, and California’s rates are the lowest in the nation. We’re in a good place to peel back restrictions. We’ve talked about following the science as we place new restrictions, and the local mask mandate helped control the fourth wave.As we moved out of lockdown in the past, we saw evidence that we can safely lift restrictions when conditions allow.With over 90 percent of our eligible community fully vaccinated, we’ve earned another margin of normalcy. “