Shortly before the new statewide mask mandate was reinstalled in California on Wednesday, the California Department of Health announced that the city and County of San Francisco would be largely exempt from the order due to a large percentage of the population being vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), most businesses, ranging from offices to gyms, will not be required to wear masks as long as 100% of people there have been vaccinated. With 86% of the city currently having received at least one dose and 80% being fully vaccinated, San Francisco’s mask policy will remain markedly different from the rest of California until at least January 15th, the earliest day possible that the new mask mandate will be removed.
However, while masking rules will be largely relaxed, the city will still be following some of the changes made on Wednesday by the state, including following the rest of the state in requiring people attending events of 1,000 or more to provide proof of a negative test or vaccination to enter.
“This means that stable cohorts of 100% fully vaccinated people in settings like workspaces and gyms will continue to be allowed to remove masks,” said the SFDPH in a tweet on Tuesday night. “This refinement acknowledges the hard work of the people of San Francisco throughout the pandemic, including the ways in which we have maintained reasonable protections heading into the holiday season.”
UPDATE: @CAPublicHealth has further refined its indoor masking requirements since Monday. This means that stable cohorts of 100% fully vaccinated people in settings like workspaces and gyms will continue to be allowed to remove masks. (1/3)
— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) December 15, 2021
“It’s a recognition of all of the thought and care that San Francisco residents have been putting into staying as safe as possible,” said San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip in a statement.
While California health officials, who brought back the mandate to combat against a winter Delta variant surge and Omicron variant cases, have largely set a new blanket mask standard on Wednesday regardless of County populations or overall chance of spread in rural areas, they also acknowledged the high standards of San Francisco in their exemption announcement.
Businesses in San Francisco were surprised by the exemption on Wednesday but added that they were grateful to receive it.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much having the mask policy would have hurt my gym,” said John Lee, a gym co-owner in San Francisco, to the Globe on Wednesday. “A lot of us thought that we’d have to impose masks again, and that would have cut into business just as profits have begun getting back to normal after almost two years. People won’t come out if they have to wear those things believe it or not, so as long as you are vaccinated, which is pretty much a must now, you’re set here.
“Well, not only here, but the whole city now too I guess.”
State health officials have not said as of Wednesday if exemptions would be given to other counties with statistics close to San Francisco’s, such as neighboring Marin and Santa Clara Counties, who boast higher vaccination and one dose percentages than San Francisco.
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