San Francisco, CA

California updates facial covering rules: When, Where & Who can finally unmask

Golden Gate Media

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California has issued new rules for wearing facial coverings for people who have and have not been fully vaccinated.Golden Gate Media

With the nation’s lowest COVID-19 infection rate, California on May 3 updated its facial covering rules — which many San Francisco Bay Area health authorities are also adopting.

They largely mirror those issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued last week to allow fully vaccinated people the ability to remove their masks while outdoors in a situation where physical distancing can be maintained.

“Face coverings are not required outdoors except when attending crowded outdoor events when physical distancing is not possible,” the California Department of Public Health stated. “For small outdoor gatherings, fully vaccinated persons are not required to wear face coverings while unvaccinated persons do. Regardless of vaccination status, face coverings are required indoors with a few exceptions.”

And under some circumstances, vaccinated people may spend time indoors with other vaccinated people indoors — under one circumstance.

“Fully vaccinated people can spend time with other fully vaccinated persons from a single household who are at low-risk for severe COVID-19 disease, including indoors, without wearing a face covering or physically distancing,” the updated guidance further states.  

There are some exceptions to the facial covering guidance. They must be worn in certain settings.

“For fully vaccinated persons, face coverings are not required outdoors except when attending crowded outdoor events, such as live performances, parades, fairs, festivals, sports events, or other similar settings,” the Public Health Department states. “For unvaccinated persons, face coverings are required outdoors any time physical distancing cannot be maintained, including when attending crowded outdoor events, such as live performances, parades, fairs, festivals, sports events, or other similar settings.”

Masks must also be worn “in indoor settings outside of one's home, including public transportation, face coverings continue to be required regardless of vaccination status.”

Fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after one’s second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

California’s seven-day positivity rate on May 3 fell to 1.1 percent, the lowest it has ever been since the start of the pandemic. Another 15 deaths were reported that day.

“As of May 3, providers have reported administering a total of 30,501,711 vaccine doses statewide. The CDC reports that 38,560,120 doses have been delivered to entities within the state,” the Public Health Department stated.

In San Francisco, the city’s facial covering rules were updated in March.

“People may remove their Face Covering when they are outdoors if they are alone or with only members of their Household or living unit and nobody else is within six feet or as specifically provided in the health directive involving outdoor recreation and youth sports,” it states. “People may remove their Face Covering when otherwise allowed by a Health Officer order or directive, including as such orders or directives in the near future address people who are fully vaccinated.”

However, given how busy being out and about in the city can be, many San Franciscans have taken to wearing their masks the entire time they are out in public.

“Everyone must wear a Face Covering when outside their residence if anyone else other than members of their Household or living unit is within six feet and, must start putting it on early enough to meet the six feet of distance requirement,” San Francisco’s facial covering rules state. “Everyone must wear a Face Covering when outdoors where distances between people change frequently and often come to within six feet or less, such as a busy sidewalk.”

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