In San Francisco, indoor mask exemptions are back for some vaccinated, boosted spaces

Photo by Jeff Chiu, AP Photo

A pedestrian passes a mural in San Francisco during the first year of the pandemic that reads: "When out of your home, Wear a mask over your mouth and nose."

Vaccinated residents in San Francisco will once again be allowed to forego their masks in some indoor settings, health officials said Thursday, citing declining COVID-19 case rates.

Starting Feb. 1, San Francisco residents will be allowed to take their masks off indoors if they are in a stable setting like an office or gym in which everyone has completed their initial vaccine series and received a booster vaccine dose if eligible.

Indoor mask requirements still remain in effect, regardless of vaccination status, for most settings.

Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said local health officials intend to follow COVID safety guidance from the state while also accelerating the easing of certain restrictions because of the city’s high vaccination and booster rates.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks at the opening of a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Moscone South on Feb. 4, 2021. (JESSICA CHRISTIAN/THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE / VIA GETTY IMAGES )

As of Wednesday, 89 percent of all San Francisco residents have received at least one vaccine dose and 63 percent of residents who have completed their initial vaccine series have also received a booster.

“We will (lift restrictions) carefully and by following our local data and the science, as there are still San Franciscans who are medically vulnerable to the disease and communities that remain highly impacted when case rates are high,” Philip said in a statement.

The city previously issued a similar exemption in October to its indoor mask mandate, allowing the removal of masks in small groups in which everyone had completed their initial vaccination series.

San Francisco subsequently rescinded that exemption Dec. 29 as COVID cases skyrocketed locally due to the highly contagious omicron variant.

Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa counties also had similar indoor masking exemptions prior to the omicron surge. All four counties rescinded their exemptions Dec. 28 and 29.

On Thursday, representatives for Contra Costa and Alameda counties both said they did not have immediate plans to loosen their indoor mask requirements. Officials with Sonoma and Marin counties did not respond to a request for comment.

San Francisco also updated its requirements to enter indoor events of 500 or more people, allowing people who have not completed their initial vaccine series to attend large indoor events if they present a negative COVID test result.

The city will also recognize valid religious and medical exemptions to vaccination along with a negative COVID test for residents seeking to visit businesses like restaurants, bars and gyms.

Previously, patrons at various indoor businesses and large indoor events were required to show proof of their full vaccination to enter, with no acceptance of a recent negative test result.

At-home rapid test results will be accepted within 24 hours prior to entering an affected indoor business and PCR test results will be accepted from the 48 hours prior to entry, according to city officials.

San Francisco’s workers in high-risk settings continue to be required to complete their initial vaccination series and receive a booster dose when eligible.

As part of the city’s updated health order, the deadline for workers in high-risk settings to get a booster, if they are eligible, was pushed from Feb. 1 to March 1.

The city’s COVID-related health orders can be found at

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