The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) announced on Thursday it will be ending their COVID-19 public health emergency declaration at the end of the month, on the same day as Gov. Newsom’s end to the California state of emergency.
Unlike most still-existing COVID-19 related emergency orders that date back to March 2020, San Francisco had initially declared an emergency order in late February 2020 due to cases developing in and around the city earlier than most other places in California. In the next few years, San Francisco became known for their strict policies and for holding out on mandates longer than other areas of the state. While the city did follow the rest of California when statewide mask mandate ended in February 2022, many areas of the city didn’t individually drop masking rules until the Fall, such as BART not dropping their mandate until September 30th.
Likewise, after Governor Gavin Newsom announced in October that the statewide COVID-19 emergency order would be ending in February, San Francisco became one of the longest holdouts on local emergency orders. Los Angeles County, also known for stricter COVID-19 rules, announced an end to their emergency order on February 1st in December, while San Diego County had announced an end on February 28th earlier this month.
With San Francisco now being the major exception, and new cases within the city continuing to bottom out, the SFDPH formally announced the end to the emergency order at the end of the month, as well as other related mandates in an announcement on Thursday.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the extraordinary efforts of San Francisco residents, and to the progress that we have made collectively as a city to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19,” said SFDPH Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip in a statement. “While the ending of the public health emergency declaration and health orders does not mean the end of COVID-19, we are in a better place than we were three years ago, and the effective tools we now have such as at-home tests, vaccines, boosters and treatments will continue to save lives.”
The “Safer Return Together” order, which installed masking and vaccine requirements for those in higher-risk areas, will also be formally withdrawn, ending the requirements for many healthcare facilities.
Many in San Francisco approved of the end of the emergency order on Thursday, including health care professionals, who noted that while precautions were still advisable, the threat of COVID-19 had dwindled enough to justify the end of the order.
“San Francisco was holding on to see if there was any late winter surge due to Christmas and New Years travel, but it’s mid-February now, and we just didn’t see that,” explained nurse Amy Mendoza to the Globe on Thursday. “Some hospitals may individually keep up with some masking policies, especially if there is a rise in cases, but over all, it’s not going to be fully required anymore. As long as we keep an eye on it and continue to watch case counts and look out for new variants, this is acceptable.”
Emergency orders are due to end on February 28th.
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